KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 — The US military trial of two Malaysian militants and their Indonesian recruiter suspected of orchestrating the fatal bombings in Bali and Jakarta nearly 20 years ago hit some speed bumps on the first day of trial.
US newspaper New York Times and British daily The Guardian reported today that the trial at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was repeatedly stalled due to translation issues by the assigned courtroom interpreters for the three accused — Indonesian Encep Nurjaman, 57, who is better known as Hambali; and Malaysians Mohammed Nazir Lep, 45, and Mohammed Farik Amin, 46.
NYT reported that one lawyer pointed out that a prisoner had mentioned “Google” in a remark in Malay for the judge, but the court interpreter did not mention the search engine in an English translation.
The Indonesian translator also reportedly translated “legal training” in English into “training legal” in Bahasa Indonesia.
Defence lawyers were also reported telling the judge, US Navy Commander Hayes C. Larsen, that a translator whom the three accused recognised as “Mr Singh” and had confided in previously during a separate hearing seeking release, was present in the courtroom during trial and sitting beside the lead prosecutor.
The judge was also told by the defence lawyers that the official court Indonesian translator had in 2020, offered the opinion that “the government is wasting money on these terrorists; they should have been killed a long time ago”. The defence claimed to have a sworn affidavit from a witness who heard the remark.
According to the news reports, the three accused were assigned civilian and military lawyers paid for by the Pentagon. Encep is represented by James R. Hodes, Mohammed Nazir by Brian Boffard and Mohammed Farik by Christine Funk.
The long-awaited trial is seen as the first step to resolve murky war cases before the US shuts down the Guantanamo detention centre. The US still holds 39 of the 779 men seized in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and invasion of Afghanistan.
According to the news reports, the detainees have been languishing at Guantanamo based on tainted evidence obtained by the CIA through torture.
Mohammed Nazir and Mohammed Farik were reported to have been recruited by Encep to serve as intermediaries in the transfer of money used to fund notorious South-east Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) that had ties to Al Qaeda.
JI has been held responsible for the suicide bombings in Bali which killed 202 people in 2002, and Jakarta’s JW Marriot Hotel in August 2003 which killed 11 and wounded more than 80.
All three were captured in Thailand in 2003 and transferred to CIA “black sites,” where they were brutalised and subjected to torture, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report released in 2014. In 2006, they were moved to Guantanamo.