MUAR: Two decades may have passed but the brother of Nazir Lep, one of two Malaysians detained at the controversial US-run Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba, waits expectantly for his imminent return.
Najib Lep has been diligently building a home for Nazir in Kampung Jeram Masjid here since the beginning of this year.
Thus far, the US authorities have said nothing to suggest they intend to release Nazir and fellow Malaysian Mohammed Farik Amin, both arrested on suspicion of terrorism 20 years ago.
However, recent international news reports have buoyed Najib’s spirits considerably.
“We started building this simple house early this year and it is 90% complete. The land was a gift from our late father, Lep Jasmani.
“There is enough space for Nazir to plant vegetables, do some aquaculture and rebuild his life,” Najib told FMT.
He said Nazir, who turns 47 this year, left home 22 years ago, and the family has been longing for his return ever since. Nazir is single, and the youngest of eight siblings.
Najib said his family experienced their saddest moment when their mother, who pined every day for her youngest child, died in 2009 without seeing him again.
Najib, a former Johor assemblyman, laments that his brother has suffered a grave injustice by being detained without trial for far too long.
“Placing him in solitary confinement without trial for 20 years is just inhumane. Our family is extremely sad and praying that he returns soon,” he said.
Foreign news reports citing documents filed with the military court in Guantanamo last month hint at plans for the duo to be repatriated to Malaysia to face proceedings under local laws.
On Monday, counter-terrorism analyst Ahmad El-Muhammady of the International Islamic University of Malaysia told regional news portal BenarNews a deal involving the return of both Nazir and Farik may be in the works.
“This is the way forward and to meet the humanitarian rights perspective. They have been under detention for more than 20 years,” he said.
Najib said he has communicated with his brother via Skype on several occasions to inquire about how he was doing and keep him abreast on family matters and other developments.
In 2003, Nazir and Farik were nabbed in Thailand following a bombing at the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta in August that year.
They are also suspected of being involved in the twin bombings that killed 202 people in Bali in October the previous year, Indonesia’s deadliest terror attack to date.
Following their arrest, they were put under solitary confinement at secret CIA-operated black sites, before being moved to Guantanamo Bay in 2006.
It was only in August 2021 that they were charged together with Indonesian Encep Nurjaman, better known as Hambali, the alleged mastermind of the bombings.
However, the trial could not proceed as the US government was unable to provide qualified Malay translators.
When contacted, Nazir’s lawyer, Brian Bouffard, said he was not at liberty to divulge any details about the matter.