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- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
The Rack: Cullen Murphy, Todd S. Purham, David Rose, Philippe Sands, "Guantánamo: An Oral History" (Vanity Fair).
Hezbollah suspect leads Thai police to chemical stash
Thai police on January 12 arrested a suspected member of the Lebanese Hezbollah, Atris Hussein, and later charged him with illegal weapons possession after receiving a tip from Israeli intelligence sources that Hezbollah operatives were plotting to attack various tourist attractions in the Thai capital of Bangkok (NYT, CNN, Reuters, AP, AFP). After his arrest Hussein led police on January 16 to a warehouse he had been renting for a year, where he had stockpiled a large amount of ammonium nitrate and urea, both of which can be used to make explosives, though a police spokesman later said the alleged plot involved the chemicals being shipped out of Thailand for use in another country (BBC).
Radical cleric Abu Qatada on January 17 won his fight against deportation from the United Kingdom to Jordan, where he has been accused of involvement in two major terrorist plots, because he risks being tortured and having evidence obtained through his torture used against him in court (BBC, AP, Tel) Abu Qatada fled to the U.K. in 1993 after purportedly being tortured by Jordanian security forces, and claims that the accusations against him were derived from evidence obtained by torturing his co-defendants.
Four people, including a British citizen who has been detained in Kenya for a year for being in the country illegally, Jermaine Grant, and Kenyans Fouad Ababaker Manswab, Warda Breik Islam and Frank Ngala were charged on January 12 with possessing bomb-making equipment and plotting to detonate an improvised explosive in Kenya in December (Reuters, BBC, Guardian). Police said they are also questioning Grant about possible links to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab.
Spanish judge moves forward with Gitmo torture probe
A Spanish judge on January 13 said he is proceeding with an investigation into alleged human rights abuses at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantánamo Bay claimed by four Muslim men who are either residents or citizens of Spain (AP, McClatchy). The investigation had been paused while Judge Pablo Ruiz waited for Washington to respond to the claims, but after receiving no word from the United States, he decided to continue the probe. And a Navy defense lawyer, Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, has filed suit before a court of appeals against the prison for failing to protect his client’s Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial, by mandating that mail he sends to his client be inspected (Miami Herald). Cmdr. Ruiz said that Guantánamo commander Rear Adm. David Woods is "censoring what he believes the client should get" instead or just searching the incoming mail for physical contraband.
Imam sentenced to life in prison
A Trinidadian Shi’a Muslim imam, Kareem Ibrahim, was sentenced to life in prison by a federal judge in Brooklyn on January 13 for his role in a plot with three other men, Russell M. Defreitas, Abdul Kadir, and Abdel Nur, to blow up fuel tanks at New York City’s Kennedy International Airport in 2007 (NYT, CNN, AP, WSJ, AFP, Bloomberg). Previously, Defreitas and Kadir were also sentenced to life in prison, while Nur received a 15-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to the plot, which was uncovered by U.S. officials through a confidential informant.
On January 13 in New Bern, North Carolina, Hysen Sherifi received a 45-year prison sentence, Ziyad Yaghi received a nearly 32-year sentence, and Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan received a 15-year sentence for the three men’s activities as part of a Raleigh, North Carolina terror cell led by Daniel Patrick Boyd (AP). Federal investigators say the cell members conspired to attack the U.S. Marine base at Quantico in Virginia as well as U.S. forces serving abroad, and obtained funds, weapons and training in preparation for their attacks.
Anthony Falco Jr., who is accused of trying to bring a fake bomb through the security checkpoint at Kansas City International Airport on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial by a U.S. District judge last week, and ordered to spend 4 months in a psychiatric facility (AP). And a federal judge in Manhattan on January 12 denied a new trial for El-Sayyid A. Nosair, who was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to bomb various New York City landmarks and of murdering Rabbi Meir Kahane, rejecting his claims of newly discovered evidence and of misconduct by the prosecution during his original trial (NYT).
Trials and Tribulations
- The German government on January 16 presented the country’s highest civilian award to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Trevor Brewer and civilian American airport employee Lamar Connor for chasing Arid Uka after Uka shot and killed two U.S. service members aboard a U.S. Air Force bus last March at the Frankfurt airport (AP).
- Venezuela withdrew its staff from the country’s consulate in Miami after allegedly receiving threats from Venezuelan exiles with links to terrorism, though President Hugo Chavez had already announced the consulate’s closure after the U.S. government expelled a diplomat there (AP).
- Iraqi authorities have reportedly arrested hundreds of foreign defense contractors in the past several weeks, detaining them for a few hours to a few weeks because of questions over their visas, weapons permits, and permission to drive on certain roads (NYT).