Alleged Bali bomber Hambali seeks Guantanamo release
Fri, Mar 12, 2010

WASHINGTON - Hambali, the alleged Bali bomb mastermind suspected of links to Al-Qaeda, filed a petition Thursday seeking release from Guantanamo where he has been detained without charge for more than three years.

Considered the operational chief of Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) until his capture in Thailand in 2003, Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, filed a habeas petition with the US District Court in Washington.

Hambali, accused of plotting the October 2002 attack in Bali that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists, was held for three years in secret CIA prisons before being transferred to Guantanamo in September 2006.

In addition to the Bali bombing he is thought to have raised funds from Al-Qaeda, with whom he has denied any links, for the 2003 attack on the Marriott hotel in Jakarta that left 12 people dead.

JI has long been suspected of having ties to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, which was behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed close to 3,000 people, most in New York.

Hambali allegedly headed JI until late 2002. He was arrested in Thailand in August 2003 and handed over to US authorities, who are currently detaining him at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The US also accuses Hambali of orchestrating and funding an attack on an Indonesian church on Christmas Eve 2000 that left 18 dead, and of plotting attacks on the embassies of the US, Britain and Australia in Singapore.

For years the US Congress and former president George W. Bush had sought to deny detainees the right to challenge their detention without charge at Guantanamo on the grounds that they are "enemy combatants."

In a major setback for the Bush administration, the Supreme Court ruled in June 2008 that detainees being held at Guantanamo enjoy the constitutional right of habeas corpus, which allows them to challenge their detention.

Some detainees have since been cleared of any wrongdoing and freed, but the vast majority, including Hambali, remain high-risk prisoners awaiting trial.

US President Barack Obama is facing a growing clamour of calls to try key terror suspects still held at Guantanamo in military commissions rather than civilian courts.

Leading Democratic US Senator Jim Webb hit out in January at reported plans to try Hambali, who is sought for trial in his homeland of Indonesia, at a civilian court in the Washington area.

"The Indonesian government, which has already executed three others involved in this bombing, wants to try him. I do not understand the relevance of trying him as a common criminal in the civilian courts of the United States," he said.

Webb's comments came after he and five other US senators joined a growing chorus of calls for US Attorney General Eric Holder to reverse his decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, in civilian court rather than before military commissions.

When Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo within a year, it prompted speculation that Hambali - described by Bush as one of the most dangerous men in the world - could be returned to Indonesia to stand trial.

Jakarta has lodged several requests with Washington for access to Hambali.

Obama appears near a compromise to allow military tribunals to move forward for the alleged September 11 plotters in exchange for a deal to close Guantanamo.

The Obama administration is seeking around 237 million US dollars to move Guantanamo prisoners to a maximum-security prison off the Mississippi River in Thomson, Illinois.

More than 180 detainees remain at Guantanamo, many of them already cleared for release if third countries or their countries of origin would be willing to accept them.

Obama heads next week to Indonesia, where he spent four years as a boy, to attend a democracy promotion conference and highlight counter-terrorism measures.


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