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Profile: Hamzah Haz
Hamzah Haz was a participant or observer in the following events:
Hamzah Haz. [Source: Secretary of Vice President of Republic of Indonesia]Hamzah Haz supports many Islamist militants during his time as vice president of Indonesia from 2001 to 2004. Hamzah serves under President Megawati Sukarnoputri, but he heads a different political party than she does, and his party, the
United Development Party (PPP) has a more Muslim orientation. Prior to the October 2002 Bali bombings, Hamzah describes himself as “very close” to Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual head of the al-Qaeda affiliate group Jemaah Islamiyah. Just one week before the Bali bombings, he says, “If you want to arrest Abu Bakar Bashir, you will have to deal with me first.” In May 2002, he kisses both of Bashir’s cheeks in public. And in August 2002, he publicly invites Bashir to dinner. Hamzah also calls himself “very close” to Jafar Umar Thalib, the head of Laskar Jihad, an Indonesian paramilitary group responsible for killing thousands of Christians in the province of Maluku (see January 1999-July 2001). [Age (Melbourne), 10/14/2002; Time, 10/21/2002] After the Bali bombings, Hamzah tones down his support for militants such as Bashir and Thalib. However, he continues to ridicule suggestions Indonesia has a serious terrorist problem. In September 2003, he says, “Who is the real terrorist? It is the United States for they have attacked Iraq. In fact they are the king of terrorists.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/5/2003]
According to counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, immediately after 9/11, a European intelligence agency warns the US that a prominent member of the Indonesian government is in close touch with al-Qaeda. This is said to come from communication intercepts. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 267] Hamzah Haz, vice president of Indonesia from July 2001 to October 2004, calls himself “very close” to Islamist militant leaders such as Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah. But there have been no reports linking him to al-Qaeda (see July 23, 2001-October 20, 2004).
US officials hold a secret meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and strongly urge her to allow the US to rendition Abu Bakar Bashir out of the country. Bashir is a radical Islamist imam alleged to be the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), al-Qaeda’s main Southeast Asian affiliate. US ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce, National Security Council official Karen Brooks, and a CIA official meet with Megawati at her home in Jakarta. The interpreter is an American named Fred Burks, who will later reveal details of the meeting during an Indonesian trial. Burks claims the CIA official tells Megawati that Bashir was responsible for a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Indonesia in 2000 and asks to rendition him. Megawati had allowed the US to rendition two suspects earlier in the year, Omar al-Faruq and Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni (see June 5, 2002 and Early January-January 9, 2002).
But neither of them are Indonesian citizens, whereas Bashir is. Megawati rejects the request, saying Bashir is too popular to simply disappear without repercussions. (Megawati’s Vice President Hamzah Haz describes himself as “very close” to Bashir, and shortly after this meeting he says publicly, “If you want to arrest Abu Bakar Bashir, you will have to deal with me first” (see July 23, 2001-October 20, 2004).) Burks claims that Megawati says: “I can’t render somebody like him. People will find out.” Boyce will later claim that the US did press forcefully for Indonesia to arrest Bashir because the CIA had just learned from interrogating al-Faruq that Bashir was the head of a terrorist network that was about to attack Indonesia. However, he will deny the US wanted to rendition him. Boyce will later call the meeting the centerpiece of a month-long series of meetings with Indonesian officials in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack in Indonesia. [BBC, 1/3/2005; Boston Globe, 3/2/2005] However, the Bali bombings take place one month later, killing over 200 (see October 12, 2002). In 2005, Bashir will be acquitted of charges that he was involved in any terrorist acts and set free after serving a year in prison on minor charges (see March 3, 2005).
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