US Supreme Court Backs Legitimacy of Guantanamo Courts

CIA

Washington- The US Supreme Court has refused an appeal bid by one of Guantanamo’s most famous detainees, backing the legitimacy of the special military courts in place at the US naval base in Cuba.

Agence France Presse said Tuesday that the decision confirms the life sentence handed to Ali Hamza Ahmad al-Bahlul, a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, and held in Guantanamo since 2002.

The Yemeni, identified as the former propagandist of al-Qaeda, appealed his conviction in 2008 for criminal conspiracy. 

According to his lawyers, this charge should have been brought before a federal civil court and not a military court. 

The Supreme Court move is good news to Donald Trump’s administration. He has spoken in favor of resorting more to using Guantanamo facilities and courts to incarcerate new detainees from Afghanistan and Iraq, whom Washington considers “enemy combatants.”

Defense of Suspected 9/11 Mastermind: Attacks are not Terrorism by Definition

Washington – Evening court session of 9/11 trial witnessed several surprises and controversy after defense lawyer Cheryl Bormann asked to be relieved of her defense duties, citing her sense of a looming conflict of interest.

After two and a half hours of debate during the morning session, four attorneys of the defense team also asked to be relieved.

Bin Attash said he doesn’t trust his defense team, and in return Army Col. Judge James Pohl rejected Bormann’s request and insisted on continuing with the proceeding.

Defense team of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shiba argued about the definition of terrorism, and pointed out that the World Trade Centers’ attack doesn’t fall under the classification of terrorism back then.

Defense lawyers for two of the accused terrorists argued that the United States was not at war at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, and that therefore the case was not subject to the warf court Congress created to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators. They asked Pohl to dismiss the case.

Defendants Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shiba, Ammar al-Bloushi, and Mustapha al-Howsi all stood before a military committee in a court in Guantánamo Bay Navy Base.

Mohammed is considered the mastermind of the attacks and supervised the plans and training in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bin Attash managed a training camp in Afghanistan affiliated with al-Qaeda where two of the kidnappers were trained. Yemeni Shiba helped the kidnappers to enter flight schools and secured their entrance to the US.

The military committee presiding the court preparations accused the five suspects of conspiracy to execute September 11 attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. They are also accused of attacking civilians and homicides which led to the death of 2976 as well as terrorism and hijacking planes.

Guards brought two of the five defendants, Sheikh Mohammed and Bin Attash, to court about 30 minutes before the hearing. Both spread out prayer rugs inside the court while guards and attorneys were getting ready and prayed behind their defense tables.

Separately, Bin Attash spoke in Arabic and asked Pohl through translator to release a sealed letter he sent the judge in January 2015 and asked for the return of retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Hatcher, who was his lawyer for a time and most recently a case analyst. Hatcher was removed from the team in November.

In a room annexed to the court, a man attired in a New York City Fire Department uniform sat in the court spectators’ section, and six members of the Sept. 11 families watching the session.

Asharq Al-Awsat Attends Trial of Qaeda’s Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi in Guantanamo

Iraqi

[inset_right]Guantanamo (Cuba) – A new round of pretrial sessions for prominent al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi got underway in Guantanamo Bay on Monday.

The official trial is expected to start in a date to be specified by the court during the summer of 2018.

The military court has charged Iraqi with committing war crimes. He is also facing accusations of attacking properties and conspiring to carry out attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan between 2001 and 2004, in addition joining a terrorist organization (al-Qaeda) in 1996.

Asharq Al-Awsat was present when Iraqi entered the court accompanied by two guards. Unlike his pictures, he appeared similar to Osama bin Laden with his long white beard. He appeared quiet and sat next to his defense team, holding a rosary in his hand.

He had a brief conversation with his volunteering lawyer Brent Rushforth and shook hands with the four lawyers assigned by the US Department of Defense.

The morning session lasted three hours during which Rushforth raised doubts about the US government providing legal rights to Iraqi and he complained that the trial sessions took long because he was not given the documents and information.

According to the Pentagon, he was the link between al-Qaeda and its branch in Iraq and the head of external operations of the group. He was also known for managing training camps for terrorists in Afghanistan. During that period, he was in charge for planning attacks against US forces and Coalition forces from 2002 to 2004.

He was arrested in 2006 in Turkey, during his attempt to reach Iraq from Afghanistan following orders of Osama bin Laden to provide assistance and consultation to the group in Iraq. He was detained for 170 days by the CIA and then referred to Guantanamo in April 2007.

Trump Eyes Fund for Guantanamo Upgrade

Washington- US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that the Guantanamo Bay prison will not be shut down and reiterated over the weekend a campaign pledge for putting ISIS “bad dudes” in the detention center in Cuba.

Reuters news agency said that Trump is asking Congress to give the Pentagon about $2 billion for a “flexible” fund to use against ISIS over the next six months.

Trump is also seeking to upgrade long-underfunded facilities at the US military’s Guantanamo Bay detention center that Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, unsuccessfully sought to close during his eight-year administration.

“It doesn’t seem like we are going to close it anytime soon,” John Roth, the acting Pentagon comptroller, told a Pentagon news briefing, explaining the move.

The proposals were part of a $30 billion supplemental request to Congress to add more money to the Pentagon’s budget during the government’s ongoing fiscal year, which began under the Obama administration and ends in September.

Todd Harrison at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington questioned whether Trump’s budget wish list could muster enough support among Democrats, whose votes would be needed to sign off on the spending bills given the slim Republican hold on the Senate.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he advised the Us president to send newly captured terrorism suspects to Guantanamo, which he called “a very fine place.”

“There’s plenty of space,” Sessions said of the prison.

“We are well equipped for it. It’s a perfect place for it. Eventually, this will be decided by the military rather than the Justice Department. But I see no legal problem whatsoever with doing that,” he added.

US Attorney General Describes Guantanamo as ‘Very Fine Place’

Guantanamo

Washington – US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that he had advised President Donald Trump to send detainees from US wars to Guantanamo Bay Prison, which he deemed a “very fine place.”

He said that placing the prisoners in the wartime prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was much safer than detaining them in American jails, adding that the Defense, not the Justice Department, should handle this file.

He said, in an interview with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt: “There’s plenty of space. We are well equipped for it. It’s a perfect place for it. Eventually, this will be decided by the military rather than the Justice Department. But I see no legal problem whatsoever with doing that.”

Hewitt brought up the troubles of the military commissions system operating at Guantanamo, in which the death penalty case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others accused of conspiring in the September 11, 2001 attacks has been mired in years of pre-trial hearings with no actual trial yet in sight.

Hewitt observed that the commissions system “is not getting them to trial” and called it “kind of a scandal that no one has faced justice 15 years later.” He asked Sessions whether he expected to accelerate the process.

The attorney general reiterated his support for the idea of military prosecutions of al-Qaeda members. He also said it was time to think through “to what extent we’re going to use military commissions.”

As a senator, Sessions was a critic of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to close Guantanamo prison and his refusal to bring any new captives to it.

He stated: “By now, we should have worked through all the legal complications that the Obama administration seemed to allow to linger and never get decided, so nothing ever happened. So it is time for us in the months to come to get this thing figured out and start using it in an effective way.”

Hewitt did not raise the question of whether the United States would seek to take custody of Abu Khaybar, who is suspected of being an al-Qaeda militant and was captured last fall in Yemen by another country, nor what should happen to terrorism suspects who are American citizens. Trump said during the campaign that he was “fine” with sending Americans to Guantanamo.

According to The New York Times, not much is known about Abu Khaybar except that he was a member of al-Qaeda for several years and that he operated in Sudan, then Somalia, and later Yemen.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday that some inmates in Guantanamo were detained during the war in Afghanistan, holding Obama responsible for their imprisonment. The New York Times noted however that a large number of those who had returned from the war in Afghanistan were released during the term of former President George W. Bush.

In 2016, senior Republican officials held Obama responsible for the death of US soldiers in Afghanistan at the hands of former Guantanamo prisoners.

Republican Kelly Ayotte said that that there seems to be an organized effort by the Obama administration to prevent the American people from finding out the truth behind what happens to prisoners who were in Guantanamo.

The Washington Post said that at least 12 former inmates are fighting against US troops in Afghanistan. At least one soldier was killed at their hands.

Paul Lewis, who was tasked by Obama to be the US Department of Defense’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure, had previously said that US troops in Afghanistan had faced, arrested and killed a number of former Guantanamo inmates, but he did not offer further details.

Extremist Challenges Trump to Send New Prisoners to Guantanamo

Obama

Washington – U.S. officials have revealed that Sudanese extremist leader Abu Khaybar, affiliated to al-Qaeda in Yemen, was captured by the Americans last autumn. He was held by another country, mentioned the New York Times.

Arresting Abu Khaybar caused intense debates in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration is considering what to do about Abu Khaybar, a decision that presents an early test of Trump’s campaign pledge to send terrorist suspects to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

U.S. officials said that Abu Khaybar is facing terrorism accusations but given that he is a member of Qaeda then the U.S. administration can transfer him to Guantanamo so that military committees could decide his fate.

This procedure is preferable to Trump who criticized former U.S. President Barack Obama several times for being too soft on terrorists and promised to fill the prison in Cuba with “bad dudes.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said several times that these terrorist should not be referred to civil courts, stressing that Guantanamo Bay detention camp should remain open.

The lawyer of suspected 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said that he believes Trump is serious about using Guantanamo Bay to house more terrorist suspects.

“Any chance of closing the notorious site had been lost with the end of Barack Obama’s presidency,” said Defense lawyer David Nevin.

“Our president said he intends to keep Guantanamo open and put more people there, and I took his words seriously,” Nevin said at a Doha human rights conference. He added that he would take the president “at his word” after recent comments from Trump in which he vowed to fill Guantanamo with “bad dudes”.

When Obama first came to power in 2009, he vowed to close Guantanamo. But after eight years in power, he failed to do so in the face of Republican opposition and the reluctance of U.S. allies to take in the detainees. The current population at the prison is 41.

Alleged 9/11 Mastermind Wrote 6,000 Words to Obama

Washington– A letter dated January 2015 to then-U.S. President Barack Obama by the self-proclaimed mastermind of September 11 attacks, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, described the former president as “the head of the snake” and blamed the rise of terrorism on U.S. foreign policy.

The 6,000 words letter only reached Washington few days before Obama left office, after a military judge ordered Guantanamo prison to deliver it to the White House.

The Miami Herald obtained and published the letter on Wednesday, along with a 50-page manuscript Mohammed wrote about death.

“It was not we who started the war against you in 9/11. It was you and your dictators in our land,” he wrote.

“The Machiavellian Approach adopted by the West and East in its policies in general and by infidel countries in particular like the United States, France, Great Britain, and Russia has no morals or principles in times of war or in peace,” he added.

The letter revealed U.S.-Syrian cooperation in the war against terrorism, saying Washington handed over detainees to Bashar Assad’s regime.

“Was it light or dark when your government turned over the Syrian Canadian passenger Maher Arar to your previous ally Bashar Assad to be tortured?” he asked.

“Where is your moral outrage over the human rights violations and terrorist acts committed by your former ally, Bashar Assad’s government? Was it not your government that handed over Sheikh Abu Musab Al-Suri, Abu Khalid Al-Suri, and all the Syrian Mujahedeen who were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan to him? Did you not watch the news reports and see the many cities and their residents turned to ashes, or were you busy playing golf or basketball? And after all this, your government and your people feel no compunction about charging us with destroying civilian objects and harming civilians,” Mohammed told Obama in his letter.

The alleged 9/11 mastermind wrote the letter “in the context of violence in Gaza and the occupied territories,” said Mohammed’s death-penalty defense attorney David Nevin.

Mohammed is a Kuwait-born Pakistani citizen, and is believed to be Al-Qaeda’s number three, after Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri. He was detained in March 2003 and was kept in a CIA secret prison before being transferred to Guantanamo.

“I will never ask you, or your court for mercy,” he wrote. “Do what you wish to do, my freedom, my captivity and my death is a curse on all evil doers and tyrants,” he added.

Procedural, Legal Obstacles Postpone Trial of Sept 11 Defendants

11 Sept

Washington – Preliminary closed session of pretrial hearing of Sept. 11 defendants began on Tuesday and is expected to last for months.

The five defendants are: mastermind Pakistani Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Yemeni national Ramzi bin al Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi, Walid bin Attash and Saudi national Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi.

The trial of the five prisoners by military commission, which combines elements of the U.S. military and civilian court systems, has faced many delays since the men were arraigned in May 2012 on charges that include nearly 3,000 counts of murder in violation of the laws of war, terrorism and hijacking.

The chief war crimes prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins proposed to start jury selection in the Sept. 11 trial in March 2018, a date that defense lawyers said was too soon.

He told reporters Monday night that he has filed the proposed timetable with the court to start picking the U.S. military officers as jurors in the tribunal of Mohammed and four alleged conspirators. Once chosen, he said, he expects prosecutors to present their case in six to eight weeks.

Defense attorneys objected that the date is too soon, suggesting to postpone it till 2020.

Meanwhile, trial judge Army Col. James Pohl agreed to listen to the testimony of Lee Hanson, 80, next Friday. Hanson spoke on the phone with his son, Peter, before he was killed, along with his wife and daughter, on the hijacked plane United-175.

The five men were formally charged five years ago on May 5, 2012 but progress has been slow while Col. Pohl has to decide whether to hold trial without counselor Cheryl Bormann, lawyer of Walid bin Attash because she broke her arm, requiring surgery, and was unable to make the trip from Washington, D.C.

Prosecution is deliberating whether Attash can voluntarily agree to go forward with this week’s hearings without his so-called learned counsel, but defense attorneys of other defendants fear this may become a precedent.

Many complicated judicial procedures are transpiring during the trial due to the intense interrogation techniques used by the CIA in its secret prison network, the Black Sites. Agents deployed different types of methods including waterboarding, chronic sleep deprivation and force-feeding — either orally or anally.

In 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan. He was subjected to several interrogation methods including waterboarding before his transfer to Guantanamo in 2006.

Many of the information gathered by the prosecution are still classified, which angered the defense attorneys. They said that the prosecution and judge have not given them the bulk of the national security information they need to prepare for trial.

“We don’t know what we don’t know, and that’s the problem,” Hawsawi’s defense attorney, Walter Ruiz, said Tuesday.

“I think they are hopelessly optimistic in putting out that date,” said Jay Connell, defense attorney for defendant Ammar al Baluchi, the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

The new procedures began less than a week after President Donald Trump was sworn in. Trump previously declared that he won’t hesitate in sending new prisoners to Guantanamo, which Obama had previously promised to shut down.

Belgian Sues Belgium for Suffering in Guantanamo Bay

File photo of detainees sitting in a holding area at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay

Brussels- Belgian-Moroccan imprisoned for three years in Guantanamo Moussa Zemmouri, 38, has issued proceedings against the Belgian State with the U.N. Committee against Torture.

“Belgium is complicit in his unlawful detention,” his lawyer, Walter Van Steenbrugge, asserted in De Standaard on Friday.

“Belgium exchanged information about my client with the United States. This is entirely unacceptable,” the lawyer went on.

He considered that the Belgian state has done too little to allow Zemmouri to leave Cuba, all the while knowing that he was being tortured there.

The U.N. Committee against Torture has no power to impose any penalties upon Belgium but its judgement has a significant symbolic impact.

The lawyer indicated, “We are taking civil proceedings against Belgium and requesting compensation of up to 50,000 euros for the country’s passive attitude.”

Zemmouri, who is supported by the European Center for Human Rights, was arrested in 2001 in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region on suspicion of terrorism and extradited to the United States.

He was imprisoned for three years on the controversial U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

In April 2005 he was sent back to Belgium without conviction.

Abu Mugheera from Guantanamo Bay to Syria

Military Police guard Taliban and al Qaeda detainees in orange jumpsuits. 11 January 2002 Getty

London – A British extremist who has been formerly detained in Guantanamo Bay detainee fled to Syria and is now fighting for al-Qaeda.

The terrorist – who dubbed himself Abu Mugheera al-Britani– has written in detailed memoire about his experience in the notorious U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo.

Britani’s real identity has not been identified or established yet; at least 16 U.K. nationals and residents were held at the military camp in Cuba.

Another British extremist, who was also held in Guantanamo, also fled to Syria to fight with ISIS. The story posted on the Daily Mail raises concerns that some freed terror suspects have not abandoned their fanatical ideology and could remain a threat to the public. It raises fears that compensation paid to former inmates for their years in prison, is helping to fund terrorism.

It is worth mentioning that all UK-related Guantanamo inmates who have been released have received a total of £20 million in High Court compensation paid for by the British taxpayer.

The money was handed over to former detainees who sued MI5 and MI6 for complicity in their alleged torture at the hands of the Americans.

Abu Mugheera claimed he ‘spent years’ at Guantanamo Bay, where more than 700 of the world’s most dangerous terrorists were imprisoned in the aftermath of 9/11.

In an online magazine for radicals, Abu Mugheera wrote: “Sitting in the blessed land of Syria, reflecting on those weeks and days spent behind bars, I thank Allah for releasing me and providing me with the opportunity of carrying out jihad in his path again.”

The Daily Mail considers the return of Abu Mugheera to al-Qaeda a confirmation that former detainees at Guantanamo maintain their radical ideologies. He is the second British former Guantanamo detainee known to have fled to Syria to join jihadi groups. In October, it was reported that Muslim convert Jamal al-Harith, from Manchester, escaped to Syria to join ISIS.

After being detained for two years, Harith was released from Guantanamo in 2004. He was arrested in Kandahar by U.S. troops in February 2002. He received around £1 million in compensation from the British government, which he is feared to have spent to flee to Syria and fund terrorism.

Abu Mugheera claims to be in his 30s. He said he was in Afghanistan when the U.S.-led coalition invaded the country in 2001.

He claimed, as well, that he was based in the Tora Bora Mountains when U.S. troops arrived hunting for then Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.

Harith, 48, was arrested in Afghanistan and imprisoned in Guantanamo for two years without being charged with any crime or sentenced. If it is confirmed that he returned to Syria and joined ISIS, several angry reactions are expected to rise in Britain.

Sunday Times claims it can confirm that Harith left to Syria in April 2014, using charity work as his cover. His wife and family joined him later on.

Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz announced that he would be asking Home Secretary Theresa May for an explanation.

“Whether or not this was known to the authorities we will have to find out, but it is extraordinary that this happened to him after the assurances that had been given both by the British government and others about why he should be released from Guantanamo Bay,” said Vaz.

“This is something that needs to be pursued,” he added.

Back then, orders were issued for Harith and ten other militants to cross over to Pakistan where locals would help them. When they arrived, they were met by Pakistani soldiers, who told them they would escort them. But the next day, the troops drove them to a military camp and imprisoned them, later handing them to the Americans.

British Foreign Office said last night it could not ascertain who Abu Mugheera was.