Hambali Denies Al Qaeda Ties

WASHINGTON ~ A top Indonesian terror suspect transferred to the US military base in Cuba in September after years of secret CIA detention has denied Al Qaeda ties, the Defense Department said.

Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, is a self-declared former member of the Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and is suspected of masterminding terror attacks in Indonesia.

JI has long been suspected of having ties to the Al-Qaeda network, which was behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Hambali allegedly headed JI until late 2002. He was arrested in Thailand in August 2003 and handed over to US authorities, who are currently detaining him at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

According to a Pentagon transcript of an April 4 hearing released last week, Hambali denied any link to Al Qaeda while he was a member of JI.

“Mister Hambali, did you have any association with Al Qaeda while you were a member of JI?” asked the judge of a military commission charged with determining his status as an “enemy combatant.”

Hambali was quoted as replying via an interpreter: “No.”

According to the summary of evidence released by the Pentagon: “The detainee was the operations chief of the Jemaah Islamiah and its main contact and point man for Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia.”

Hambali is one of the 14 suspects whose “enemy combatant” status is being examined by military commissions at Guantanamo.

He was transferred to the base in September after having been held in secret by the CIA since his arrest.

The military commissions are held behind closed doors and the findings are then published by the Pentagon after being censored.

The Indonesian government alleges that Hambali masterminded the October 2002 attack in Bali that killed 202 people and an August 2003 attack against a Marriott hotel in Jakarta that claimed a dozen lives.

The United States accuses Hambali of orchestrating and funding an attack on an Indonesian church on Christmas Eve 2000 that left 18 dead, and of plotting attacks on the embassies of the United States, Britain and Australia in Singapore.

In addition, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation alleges that Hambali discussed in early 2002 attacks on bars and nightspots popular with Western foreigners in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

But Hambali told the military panel through an interpreter: “I was not involved” in the Indonesian church bombing. He also said he had “nothing to do with” the Singapore embassies plot.

“You say in your statement that you resigned from JI in 2000. What were your activities from the time you resigned from JI until the time that you were captured?” a member of the military panel asked, according to the Pentagon transcript.

“No answer,” Hambali replied in English.

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