GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba, (Reuters) – U.S. military prosecutors filed war crimes charges against two more Guantanamo prisoners on Friday, saying one was an al Qaeda videographer and the other one a driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. That brings to seven the number of captives charged in the revised system of military tribunals created to try non-U.S. citizens held at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba as part of the Bush administration’s war against terrorism.
The charges say that Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul, a 39-year-old Yemeni, was bin Laden’s personal media secretary and occasional bodyguard, who created a recruiting video glorifying the bombing of the USS Cole.
Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed when al Qaeda militants attacked the ship as it was docked in Yemen in 2000.
Prosecutors also say al Bahlul made martyrdom videotapes styled as wills for two of the Sept. 11 hijackers and helped research the economic impact of the attacks they launched against the United States.
Military prosecutors say that a Sudanese prisoner, Ibrahim Mahmoud al Qosi, 47, was an armed guard and driver for bin Laden and provided logistical support for an al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan where he lived from 1998 to 2001. He fought on the front lines as part of a mortar crew in Kabul and helped al Qaeda forces flee into the Tora Bora mountains after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001, according to the charges.
The men are charged with conspiring with al Qaeda to attack and murder civilians. Al Bahlul is also charged with solicitation to commit murder and providing material support for terrorism.
Both face life in prison if convicted and both had been charged in the first Guantanamo court system. Those charges were dropped when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that version in 2006, before their trials started.
The new charges against them, like those against one other prisoner, must be approved by a Pentagon official before their pretrial hearings can start at Guantanamo. Since al Bahlul and al Qosi had been charged before, much of the work in their cases has already been done, said a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon. He said the charges show that the trial process is moving forward. “Today’s referred charges demonstrate our resolve to take them to trial and hold them accountable for their actions,” Gordon said.
The U.S. military began sending detainees to Guantanamo in January 2002 and hopes to eventually try 80 of the 275 who remain.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that military prosecutors are in the final phases of preparing the first sweeping case against suspected conspirators in the Sept. 11 attacks, citing people who have been briefed on the case.
The charges, to be filed at Guantanamo, would involve up to six detainees. The newspaper quoted on official who spoke on condition of anonymity as saying “the thinking was 9/11 is the heart and soul of the whole thing. The thinking was: go for that.”
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to comment, beyond saying that the government was preparing a case against “individuals who have been involved in some of the most grievous acts of violence and terror against the United States and our allies,” the Times said.
Guantanamo cases have moved in fits and starts, often stalled by legal challenges to the system created to try captives the United States considers to be unlawful enemy combatants undeserving of the protections granted to civilians and soldiers.
Only one case has been completed, that of Australian former prisoner David Hicks. He avoided trial by pleading guilty to providing material support for terrorism and served a nine-month sentence.