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City of Brass

City of Brass

Pakistan arrests Mumbai suspects; Malaysia lets some go

The Mumbai terror attacks were arguably India’s 9-11 – an attack on the nation as a whole instead of just isolated targets of opportunity. That makes these two stories an interesting pair – first, Pakistan has arrested suspects accused of being masterminds of the Mumbai attack:

Pakistan’s prime minister has confirmed the arrest of two men that India says had a role in last month’s attacks in Mumbai that left at least 171 people dead.

Yousuf Raza Gilani said in Multan city on Wednesday that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah, members of armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba, are being questioned by Pakistani investigators.

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“They have been detained for investigation,” Gilani said.

Confirmation of Lakhvi and Shah’s arrest came a day after Indian police released the names or aliases of nine suspected attackers killed during the Mumbai assaults.

Police said all the men named were from Pakistan.

meanwhile, Malaysia has released several suspected terrorists, including one who may have briefly housed the 9-11 NYC hijackers:

The Malaysian government has released three “terror suspects” from a detention camp, including one accused of abetting the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.

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Syed Hamid Albar, the Malaysian home minister, confirmed on Wednesday that the alleged members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) regional group were released from the Kamunting detention centre in the northern state of Perak over the last two weeks.

The most prominent among them is Yazid Sufaat, a JI member, who was arrested in December 2002.

“He was considered as a threat to public security in Malaysia because he was part of Jemaah Islamiyah, trying to establish an Islamic government within the region,” Syed Hamid.

“I think after holding him for so long, he can be brought back into society but at the same time we will follow closely everyone that may have ideology [of] militancy or extremism.”

[…]

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Yazid, a former army captain, allegedly let several senior al-Qaeda operatives use his apartment for meetings in Malaysia, including two eventual hijackers in the September 11 suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre.

The United States’ 9/11 Commission report says Yazid, a US-trained biochemist, would “spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al-Qaeda” in a laboratory he helped set up near Kandahar airport.

The US had sought Yazid’s extradition after he was detained.

Nalini Elumalai, an activist with human rights group Suaram, said the three men were released on condition that they remain within their home districts and report regularly to police.

Security detainees undergo intensive counselling while in detention and will be freed if authorities are convinced that they have been “rehabilitated”.

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It’s easy to be alarmed by this but it is important to remember that religious de-programming and rehabilitation of jihadis is not only possible but in fact quite successful. These suspects were being held without trial (akin to the detainees at Guantanamo) and so if the Malaysian government had no actual evidence to tie these men to their alleged actions, then releasing them is the right thing to do. 

Meanwhile, in Guantanamo itself, several of the detainees (including high profile Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept 11th mastermind) actually offered to plead guilty with full confession, hoping to get the death penalty. Far from simplifying things, the offer to plead guilty caused tremendous legal confusion:

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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Dec. 8 — Five of the men accused of planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said Monday that they wanted to plead guilty to murder and war crimes but withdrew the offer when a military judge raised questions about whether it would prevent them from fulfilling their desire to receive the death penalty.

“Are you saying if we plead guilty we will not be able to be sentenced to death?” Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed operational mastermind of the attacks, asked at a pretrial hearing here.

The seesaw proceedings Monday raised and then postponed the prospect of a conviction in a case that has become the centerpiece of the system of military justice created by the Bush administration. A conviction would have capped a seven-year quest for justice after the 2001 attacks, but the delay in entering pleas will probably extend the process beyond the end of the Bush presidency.

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mcjoan at DailyKos comments,

the military commissions process has been so haphazardly slapped together that even the judge didn’t know how to proceed with a guilty plea, whether a death sentence could be imposed if the case wasn’t heard by a “jury.”

Guantanamo not only makes a mockery of our principles and justice system, but also has caused immense harm to us as a nation – as evidenced by comments of an (anonymous) Air Force intelligence agent involved with interogations in Iraq:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans….

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My experiences have landed me in the middle of another war — one even more important than the Iraq conflict. The war after the war is a fight about who we are as Americans. Murderers like Zarqawi can kill us, but they can’t force us to change who we are. We can only do that to ourselves. One day, when my grandkids sit on my knee and ask me about the war, I’ll say to them, “Which one?”
[…]

I’m actually quite optimistic these days, in no small measure because President-elect Barack Obama has promised to outlaw the practice of torture throughout our government. But until we renounce the sorts of abuses that have stained our national honor, al-Qaeda will be winning. Zarqawi is dead, but he has still forced us to show the world that we do not adhere to the principles we say we cherish. We’re better than that. We’re smarter, too.

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If we are to win against these people who threaten us, we must do so without conceding to them our principles and our honor. The same goes for all civilized nations under attack, including India and Malaysia. To that end I hope that the accused of the Mumbai attacks are indeed given a real, honest trial – and why I find Malaysia’s actions to be hopeful instead of worrying.

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