Lawyers handling the case against Hambali say more time is needed to prepare as the defense criticizes the delays.
Medan, Indonesia – Guantanamo Bay military prosecutors have suggested the full trial of Hambali, detained for attacks that killed hundreds in Indonesia, begin in March 2025, even though he and his two co-defendants have been in custody for 17 years.
Hambali, an Indonesian whose real name is Encep Nurjaman, has been detained at Guantanamo since 2006 along with his co-defendants, Malaysian nationals Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep and Mohammed Farik Bin Amin.
Hambali is accused of having participated in the 2002 Bali bombingswhich killed more than 200 people, including US citizens, and the 2003 JW Marriott hotel bombing in Jakarta, in which 11 people died.
Indonesia’s lead lawyer, James Hodes, told Al Jazeera his client was doing “as good as possiblein view of this prolonged detention and the fact that the proceedings went “as well as could be expected and that the judge and the observers heard a lot about the problems we are facing”.
Those issues include issues with interpreters, which Hodes said took up almost the entire third day of proceedings, as well as the testimony of Imam Samudra, one of the original masterminds of the Bali attack who was accomplished in 2008 in Indonesia.
According to Hodes, US authorities did not interview Samudra while he was still alive, and his testimony could have meant his client was exonerated.
“Imam Samudra appeared to be the mastermind of the attack and was available to be interviewed by the FBI, but he was not. That is not how crimes are supposed to be investigated. The authorities are supposed to look at all possibilities,” Hodes told Al Jazeera.
In addition to the challenges associated with the disappearance of exculpatory evidence, Hodes said the lack of a speedy trial was embarrassing for the defense team, which has always maintained Hambali’s innocence.
“We are now two years after the indictment and 20 years after the fact and the prosecution is still not over with discovery,” Hodes said.
The discovery process takes place when the two parties exchange documents before a trial and, generally, the prosecution provides these elements to the defense at the beginning of a case. For Hambali, the formal process to bring him to justice began in 2019 but has yet to be completed some five years later.
During the last hearings, the prosecution requested a trial date in March 2025, the judge still having to decide.
Hodes told Al Jazeera the defense team was “ready” for the trial, but added that further delays seemed likely.
The current army-appointed judge, Army Col. Charles Pritchard, is to be reassigned with a new judge expected to take over.
“It’s problematic if every time a judge finds out about the case, he has to leave,” he said.