Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against a Guantanamo Bay detainee accused of orchestrating the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub bombings in Indonesia and other attacks, a U.S. military official said Wednesday.
The detainee known by the single name Hambali was notified last week that prosecutors are preparing to try him before a military commission at the U.S. base in Cuba on charges that include terrorism and murder in violation of the law of war. He is accused of conspiring with leaders of al-Qaida in a series of attacks, including the bombings in Bali in October 2002 that killed 202 people.
A Pentagon legal official known as the convening authority must still approve the charges before the case can proceed to an arraignment.
Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Baker, the chief defense counsel, said in an email that he was notified that prosecutors do not intend to seek the death penalty even though some of the charges are potentially capital offenses.
Baker said he would be submitting a request for additional resources to “effectively represent” Hambali but the decision to not seek the death penalty means he will not have to find experienced capital attorneys. Such lawyers are typically civilians.
The chief prosecutor did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press and the rationale for the decision was not publicly known.
There are two military commission death penalty cases pending at Guantanamo and both have been bogged down for years in pretrial litigation. One case involves five men charged with planning and aiding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. The other is for the alleged mastermind of the deadly October 2000 bombing attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Both have stalled largely due to issues related to the fact that the defendants were held for years in clandestine CIA facilities and subjected to treatment now widely regarded as torture.
Any trial of Hambali, whose full name is Encep Nurjamen, would involve similar issues. The 53-year-old Indonesian was also held by the CIA and also subjected to what the U.S. government has called its “enhanced” interrogation program.
He is accused of being the “operational mastermind” of the Southeast Asia-based Islamic extremist group known as Jemaah Islamiyah, an affiliate of al-Qaida. Charging documents provided to the AP allege he orchestrated the Bali bombings, whose death toll included seven U.S. citizens, as well as an August 2003 attack on the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, which killed 11 people, and other plots.
Hambali is one of 41 prisoners still held at Guantanamo. If the case against him moves forward, he would be the first charged since President Donald Trump took office.