CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian lawyer whose son was killed in the 2002 Bali bombing said on Saturday that a trial in Washington of alleged terrorist Riduan Isamuddin could jeopardize chances of convicting him over the nightclub attacks that killed 202.
Brian Deegan, a former magistrate whose 21-year-old son Josh was among 88 Australians killed in the attack, said Isamuddin, Osama bin Laden’s alleged lieutenant better known as Hambali, should be tried in Indonesia where the crime was committed.
The Obama administration is conducting an intense security review as part of a plan that could bring the notorious Guantanamo Bay inmate and two associates to Washington for trial, officials said.
Hambali is believed to be the main link between al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah, the terror group blamed for the 2002 bombing at two Bali nightclubs.
Deegan conceded a trial in Washington would be “more open” than one in Indonesia, but he fears legal challenges to Hambali’s detention in secret CIA prisons — and the intense interrogation he underwent there — could stop any trial in the United States. Hambali was taken into CIA custody in 2003 and later transferred to the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
“In normal circumstances, the trial should take place in the country where the crime was committed and … even though I would welcome him being placed upon trial, it just seems to me to be awkward and perhaps opening up a can of worms and a can of defenses if the Americans try him in America,” the 54-year-old lawyer from the southern city of Adelaide told The Associated Press.
“I am now very fearful that he will never see trial because he is possibly, quite probably unfit to stand trial because of the manner he has been treated with torture and privation over so many years,” he added.
The U.S. Justice Department said no decision has been made yet on how the Hambali case will be handled. The Obama administration has already decided to send one terrorism suspect — alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — to federal court, but other Guantanamo inmates will be tried in the military commission system, where the rules of evidence are more lax and prisoners have fewer rights.
An Australian tourist who suffered near fatal burns to most of his body in the Bali bombings, Peter Hughes welcomed the prospect of Hambali being tried in Washington.
“Great idea; especially from the point of view of taking it out of the hands of the Indonesian government which has been fairly soft and corrupt in dealing with terrorists,” said Hughes, a 50-year-old roofing contractor from the west coast city of Perth.
Hughes is angry that Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir’s conviction for giving his blessing to the Bali bombings was overturned by the Indonesian courts after he spent only three years in prison.
Former militants allege Bashir headed Jemaah Islamiyah in the early 2000s.
The Australian government declined to give an opinion on Saturday on where Hambali should be tried.
“A decision about a criminal prosecution is one for the U.S. authorities to make,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.
Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report from Washington.