Saturday, January 16, 2010

US govt may hold Hambali trial in Washington

WASHINGTON, Jan 17 — The United States government is mulling over plans to bring Riduan ‘Hambali’ Isamuddin, the Indonesia-born terror suspect linked to the 2002 Bali bombings and several failed plots against Singapore, to Washington, DC for a trial.

The Justice Department is expected to make a final decision in a few weeks’ time, according to the Associated Press which first reported the news.

Attorney-General Eric Holder did not respond to the report, though the news immediately drew fierce criticisms from the opposition Republicans.

They argued that it would be too dangerous to conduct a high-profile terrorism trial in a major population centre like Washington, DC, adding that the costs of maintaining security during the proceedings would be prohibitive.

“Moving terrorist detainees to within a mile of the White House and blocks from the US Capitol for show trials is a mistake,” Congressman Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement posted on his website.

“The American people, already reeling under the debt of crushing federal spending, should not be asked to shell out hundreds of millions more to satisfy the symbolic wishes of the Obama administration.”

The Jakarta Globe quoted a source from Indonesia’s national police force who confirmed that Hambali will be tried in the US.

But Indonesia’s foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told the newspaper that his ministry has not received any notification from Washington.

A similar outcry also broke out when it was announced that alleged Sept 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be put on trial in New York.

President Barack Obama, however, has said that he believes criminal courts in the US can handle even the most dangerous terrorists.

His administration’s efforts to try these terror suspects in the US are part of broader plans to close the Guantanamo Bay military detention centre, which still holds hundreds of terror suspects, including “high-value” detainees like Hambali.

Hambali, the alleged leader of regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and a key lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, was captured in Thailand in 2003. He was kept in secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) before he was transferred to Guantanamo in 2006.

He has been linked to the Bali bombings, which killed over 200 people, as well as foiled plots to attack foreign embassies and other targets in Singapore.

But media reports over the years suggest that the US authorities may not have enough evidence to convict Hambali. His treatment in the secret CIA cells could also raise serious legal challenges that could stop a trial or drag it out for a protracted period of time.

The cost of trying Hambali in Washington, DC could be in the range of US$250 million (RM835 million) a year, according to Republican Congressman Frank Wolf, who said his staff was briefed on the costs of the trial of the Sept 11 conspirators in New York.

“Similar assumptions could be made for security costs for any trial held in Washington, DC,” Wolf wrote in a letter to Attorney-General Holder that was posted online.

“A better solution would be to try these cases at the secure, state-of-the-art courthouse that has been constructed at Guantanamo Bay for this very purpose.” — Straits Times


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