Malaysians’ Guilty Pleas Accepted in ’02 Bali Bombings

A U.S. military court in Guantanamo Bay has recommended 20-25 years in prison for two Malaysians who pleaded guilty to the 2002 Bali bombings. Mohammad bin Lep and Mohammad bin Amin, who have been incarcerated at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba for 17 years, will be determined during a sentencing hearing scheduled to begin next week.

This will be the second military trial at the controversial prison set up by the United States at Guantanamo in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. The plea agreements include a provision allowing live testimony or written statements from victims and relatives or people who were killed in the deadliest terror attack ever to hit Indonesia, which claimed 202 lives.

Malaysians, including bin Amin and bin Lep, have agreed to testify against Indonesian national Encep Nurjaman, also known as Hambali, suspected to be the main planner of the Bali bombings. The plea agreements allow them to present three live witnesses, including an expert consultant, a family member, and a lay witness. They can also enter an unsworn statement during the sentencing hearing that could be rebutted by military prosecutors.

Defense witnesses have been unable to obtain visas to travel from Malaysia, and efforts are ongoing to obtain proper documentation or take other steps to get their statements on the record. The Malaysians, who have been housed at Guantanamo Bay since 2006, pleaded guilty to murder in the Bali bombings along with four other charges, including intentional causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in Bali, conspiracy, and accessory after the fact.

The military members of the Indonesian government, including Bin Amin and bin Lep, have pleaded not guilty to charges related to the Marriott hotel bombing in Jakarta in 2003. The charges carry maximum sentences of life in prison. The judge, Braun, is expected to ask the sentencing board of military members to impose lighter terms under their plea agreement. The agreement states that the sentence to confinement must be at least 20 years and may not exceed 25 years.

The judge also asked if the members are aware they could face repatriation or transfer to a third-party sovereign state after their guilty plea. The convening authority has no power to control the location or conditions of their detention or release them from military or civilian detention after taking action in this commission. The Guantanamo hearing was broadcasted via video link to reporters from Fort Meade, a U.S. Army base in Maryland.

Three Southeast Asian detainees, bin Lep, bin Amin, and Hambali, were arrested in Thailand in 2003 and sent to CIA black sites for torture. They have been held at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba since 2006. The justice process for these three detainees has been slow, with their first day in court in August 2021. The Malaysians’ cases were separated from those against Hambali last year, and a lawyer representing the Indonesian, James Hodes, does not expect a plea agreement.

Bill Braun asked the Malaysians if they were aware of Hambali’s role in the Bali attack. He found that bin Amin was aware of Hambali through reading online and a Time magazine article. Charged documents state that bin Lep and bin Amin helped Nurjaman transfer money for operations and obtain and store items such as fraudulent identification documents, weapons, and instructions on how to make bombs.

A suicide bomber detonated a vest at Paddy’s Bar in Bali on October 12, 2002, while a second bomber drove an “explosives-laden” van to a location near the Sari Club before detonating the bomb. Seven U.S. citizens were killed in the attacks.

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