Talks ongoing over possible release of two Malaysians held in Guantanamo, says new US ambassador

KUALA LUMPUR: Diplomatic talks are ongoing between Malaysia and the United States (US) to discuss the possible release of two Malaysians currently detained in Guantanamo Bay.

While newly-appointed US Ambassador to Malaysia, Edgard D Kagan refused to elaborate in detail, he said that US authorities are in contact with its Malaysian counterparts.

"We are in contact with the Malaysian government with regard to this issue.

"I don't want to prejudge it as there are many complicated aspects to this.

"But we believe that we have a very effective partnership with the Malaysian government and we will continue to work closely with them," he said during a media roundtable at the ambassador's residence here Tuesday (April 2).

Kagan was asked whether there were any negotiations between the Home Ministry and the US over the matter.

The two Malaysians - Mohamad Farik Amin, 48, and Mohammed Nazir Lep, 47 - were captured in Thailand in 2003 but never faced trial until 2024.

In late January 2024, under a plea bargain, both men reached agreements with prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay to charges of being accessories to the terrorist attacks in Bali, where after a short trial, US military judge Lt Col Wesley A. Braun gave the duo a five-year jail sentence.

Also, under the plea bargain, both will have to testify against Encep Nurjaman aka Hambali, the former leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah movement - an affiliate of Al-Qaeda - and the mastermind of the Bali bombings.

Mohammed Farik and Mohammed Nazir could be freed by 2029 or even earlier.

Both have been held in confinement in the United States in various Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) facilities since the summer of 2003 and in Guantanamo since 2006.

An exclusive e-mail response provided to Bernama by one of the men’s lead counsel, Christine Funk, offered insights into the case and the ordeal that her client had been through.

Funk represented Mohamad Farik, who is also known as "Inmate No 21” in the detention camp, located on Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in south-eastern Cuba.

When queried on the possibility of Mohamad Farik returning home, she stated that her client is cognisant of ongoing communications between his legal team and the Malaysian government regarding potential early repatriation.

She said Mohamad Farik is eager to conclude this challenging chapter of his life at the earliest opportunity - demonstrating a hopeful outlook for the resolution of his situation in the days to come.

Funk also wants to see the end of the traumatic ordeal her client endured since his capture and detention. Subsequently, he faced severe mistreatment, including beatings and torture, and was held incommunicado with his family or the Malaysian government for years.

Mohamad Farik was taken to secret CIA black sites after his capture, where he endured cruel and degrading treatment by CIA operatives who used harsh interrogation techniques on him.

Funk also provided a harrowing account of her client's ordeal during his time at the CIA black sites, stating that he was subjected to actions that have been condemned by the international legal community as cruel, inhumane, and degrading.

She went on to describe the harsh conditions Mohamad Farik endured, including being forced into "stress positions" for prolonged periods - such as leaning against a wall with only his forehead touching it or squatting with a broomstick behind his knees.

"He faced constant exposure to light and white noise (noise similar to untuned TV or radio), and - while handcuffed to a wall while seated - his hand was either chained above his head or in a position that required him to bend down, rendering him unable to stand up straight.

"He was left alone, deprived of a toilet, in complete darkness for days,” Funk said, detailing the dehumanising treatment of her client.

Furthermore, Funk revealed that Mohamad Farik endured further disturbing conditions during his time in CIA black sites, including being held naked for extended periods and often deprived of basic hygiene privileges such as a rare opportunity for a shower or to brush his teeth.

"At times, he was placed on a tarp and held down by CIA operatives before being doused with ice-cold water, both on his body and into his nose and mouth, nearly to the point of drowning - a practice known as waterboarding.

"His meals consisted of protein drinks that were provided on an inconsistent and unpredictable basis," she said, adding that such conduct toward her client, which has since been outlawed in the US, is frankly deemed un-American.

Over recent years, Funk shared that Mohamad Farik has been granted limited communication privileges. He is now allowed four phone conversations annually with his family, each lasting a mere 30 minutes.

Both Malaysian detainees continue to be held in seclusion from other prisoners as they commence serving their sentences. Upon their return, they may have to undergo rehabilitation as reported by some US media.

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