Indonesia frustrated over fate of main accused in Bali attacks
Tom Allard in Jakarta 

March 7, 2009 
THE US will not release the Jemaah Islamiah operations chief Hambali into 
Indonesian custody despite finally permitting its counter-terrorism officials 
to interview the alleged mastermind behind the Bali bombings.
Blocking the extradition of Hambali, al-Qaeda's pointman in South-East Asia who 
is believed responsible for a string of terrorist attacks in the region, has 
angered Indonesian police eager to prosecute him here. The US has rebuffed such 
requests for more than five years.

However, at a political level, the Indonesian Government is quietly content 
with the decision, believing his return could inflame Islamists and pose a 
security threat in the fraught environment of an election year.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, was interviewed by two members of 
Indonesia's anti-terrorism squad, Detachment 88, in recent weeks at Guantanamo 
Bay. The Bush administration had consistently denied Indonesia's requests for 

President Barack Obama reversed that stance and announced that, within a year, 
he wants to close the controversial US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The 
fate of Hambali and more than 240 other "enemy combatants" detained there is in 
the balance.

Senior Indonesian sources said the US had made it clear it would not release 
Hambali after Guantanamo Bay closes.

Counter-terrorism police said the US is concerned about releasing the 
intelligence gleaned from interrogations of Hambali to other nations and the 
prospect it will be challenged as being extracted by torture.

Hambali, one of 14 "high-value" detainees at the military prison, probably will 
be transferred to a prison on the US mainland but what awaits him there is 
problematic. The US has still not worked out how it will bring him and other 
senior al-Qaeda figures to justice.

Hambali has some links to the ringleaders of the September 11 attacks. However, 
the deaths of seven Americans in the Bali bombings mean the 2002 atrocity 
probably gives US authorities the best option to to charge him in a US court.

Hambali also allegedly was involved in the spate of bombings of churches in 
Indonesia in 2000 and in financing the Marriott Hotel bombing attack in Jakarta 
in 2003.

In Jakarta, the terrorism analyst Sidney Jones, of the International Crisis 
Group, said Hambali's return to Indonesia would be highly problematic for the 
Government. "He would be a celebrity. He would be a pop star," she said. "He 
would become a rallying point for [militant Islamic] groups."

There are also doubts about whether Indonesian courts could convict him. The 
terrorism laws were created after the 2002 Bali bombings and it is doubtful 
that much forensic material or authoritative testimony could be assembled.

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