Torture by U.S. Was Key Issue in Bali Bombing Plea Deal

Prosecutors told relatives of victims of the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that the U.S. government made a plea deal with two Malaysian prisoners to try to disentangle the legacy of torture from the eventual trial of the prisoner they accuse of being the mastermind of the Al Qaeda-linked attacks.

The two Malaysians provided secret testimony at the time of their sentencing last month. Depending on what they said, their testimony could be used against the man accused of being the mastermind, an Indonesian prisoner known as Hambali, in an effort to avoid lengthy litigation over whether earlier evidence was voluntarily obtained.

The legacy of torture has complicated prosecutors’ efforts to hold trials in the better known Sept. 11 and U.S.S. Cole bombing cases at Guantánamo.

Like the terrorism suspects in those cases, the Bali bombing defendants were held nude in dungeonlike conditions, deprived of sleep through painful shackling and subjected to a technique that resembled waterboarding during their 2003 to 2006 detention in C.I.A. prisons. They were kept in solitary confinement. All of it has been fodder for defense lawyers trying to discredit evidence prosecutors hope to use at the war crimes trials.

The plea deal emerged last month in two weeks of slowly unfolding proceedings at Guantánamo Bay. Prosecutors brought family members from Europe and the United States to testify to their grief. A military jury then sentenced the two defendants, Mohammed Farik Bin Amin and Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, to 23 more years in prison.

But, separately, the military judge, Col. Wesley A. Braun, disclosed a two-step reduction in their sentence and a recommendation for repatriation that could ultimately mean they return home this year.

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