Malaysians in Guantanamo: Don’t use Covid-19 to delay trial, expert tells US
PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian counter-terrorism analyst has urged the US not to use Covid-19 as an excuse to postpone the trial of two Malaysians being held at the Guantanamo detention centre for alleged links to the Bali nightclub bombings in 2002.
Ahmad El-Muhammady, an assistant professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (Istac), said the trial of Mohd Farik Amin and Mohammad Nazir Lep, together with the alleged Indonesian mastermind Hambali, was supposed to have started on Feb 22 but was postponed, with the court citing the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason.
The Office of Military Commission had announced the postponement in February but did not give any new date, with the judge apparently indicating the trial will take place during summer, which can be anytime between June and September.
“I believe if the Biden administration has a strong political will to proceed, they are capable of doing it despite the challenges posed by Covid-19. As a technologically advanced country, it won’t be difficult for the US to do so.
The US has denied them the right to fair trial for nearly two decades
“What it needs is political will and to give the matter priority. The US has denied them the right to fair trial for nearly two decades. The key is political will here,” Ahmad told FMT when contacted.
He said the other option would be to bring them back to expedite the process, adding that the Malaysian judicial system is capable of managing this type of case.
Citing the coronavirus health risks, the judge indefinitely postponed the appearance of Hambali, who is accused of masterminding the Bali bombings in 2002 and the two Malaysians allegedly linked to terror activities.
Hambali, whose real name is Encep Nurjaman, Nazir and Farik were earlier scheduled to be arraigned on Feb 22 at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
According to reports, the judge assigned to the case noted in his ruling that it was risky for lawyers and court personnel to travel to the base in view of the pandemic.
Among other reasons cited by the judge for the delay were that not everyone had been vaccinated against the coronavirus and the plan to inoculate detainees had been suspended.
According to reports, the suspects were allegedly linked to the Bali bombings, in which 202 people were killed, and the 2003 bomb attack at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, which killed 12 people.
The Malaysians have also been implicated in a planned al-Qaeda plot to crash a hijacked plane into the 73-storey Library Tower/US Bank Tower in Los Angeles.
They are being held at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the US.
Reports had also quoted Malaysia’s counterterror chief Normah Ishak as welcoming the US decision to charge them, saying justice would be served by trial proceedings.
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