The man accused of plotting the October 2002 bombing in Kuta, Bali, that killed 202 people, and the 2003 attacks at the JW Marriot and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta that killed 11, known as Hambali, is to be tried on August 30th by the US military.

Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, and his two associates will face a formal arraignment in front of a United States military commission in Guantanamo Bay.

It has been some 18 years coming. Hambali, now about 57, was captured in Ayutthaya, Thailand, on August 14th 2003 in a joint US-Thai operation and transferred to Guantanamo in September 2006.

He is believed by investigators to have masterminded the strategy of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror organisation of striking at soft targets. JI has previously been linked to Al-Qaeda and later to the Islamic State.

Hambali was not been formally charged with any crime until January this year and remains wanted in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines in connection with terrorist plots.   

In December 2001, 15 JI operatives were arrested in Singapore for planning attacks on government buildings, embassies and US servicemen in the Republic.

In 2002 came the Bali bombing – the worst terrorist attack ever on Indonesian soil. Then in 2003, the group carried out the twin suicide bombings on the JW Marriot and Ritz Carlton in Jakarta.

Two others who will stand trial with him are Mohammed Nazir Lep, alias Lillie, and Mohammed Farik Amin, also known as Zubair.

The charge sheet dated April 2019 lays out, in chilling detail, planning by the three as “principals, as co-conspirators, and as participants” of the Bali and Jakarta attacks, and a string of other plans for attacks against Americans and American interests – including the idea of attacking American servicemen and sinking an American warship in Singapore.

The trio will stand trial for “offences triable by military commission, including murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, terrorism, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, and destruction of property in violation of the law of war”.

Defence attorneys appointed by the military will speak in their defence. One of the principal points they will be making is that Hambali was tortured in detention.  The prison’s closure  faces stiff opposition in US military and intelligence circles, largely because prisoners would then fall under civil jurisprudence where evidence obtained under torture would be inadmissible.

Additionally, the charge sheet states that “From on or about August 1996 to on or about August 2003, at multiple locations in or around Afghanistan, South-east Asia and elsewhere, the three knowingly conspired and agreed with… Usama bin Laden, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, Abu Ba’aysir, Abdullah Sungkar and others, known and unknown”.

The Pakistani militant Khalid Shaikh Mohammad is accused of masterminding the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the US and is also being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on terrorism-related charges.

As the 20th anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks approaches, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad may also finally see a long-delayed formal trial. In summer 2019, a military judge set the date for January 2021, but amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it was again postponed. A new date has not been set.