Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a once-a-week brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on foreignpolicy.com or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.
- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Underwear bomber receives life sentence
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underwear bomber" who tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his underpants on an international flight to Detroit on behalf of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was sentenced to life in prison without parole on February 16 (CNN, AP, NYT, Tel, Reuters, AJE, LAT). District Judge Nancy Edmunds said Abdulmutallab — who pleaded guilty last October — received the harsh sentence in part because he has shown no remorse for his actions, claiming that Muslims are "proud to kill in the name of God."
Seven alleged members of an anti-government militia called the Hutaree went on trial in Detroit on February 13 accused of stockpiling weapons and holding militant training sessions in preparation for a war against the U.S. government (AP, NYT, Reuters). An FBI agent testified that an undercover informant was paid around $31,000 for attending the group’s meetings and training sessions, during which he recorded the attendees discussing violent plots against government employees. Defense attorneys argued that their clients were simply exercising their First Amendment right to "vent" about the government.
A superseding indictment was filed against Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, who is facing trial in Bowling Green, Kentucky accusing him of perjury in addition to the terrorism charges he faces for allegedly trying to send weapons and money to members of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AP). A federal judge in Colorado denied bail for Uzbek refugee Jamshid Muhtorov, who is accused of providing material support to the Islamic Jihad Union, which is a designated foreign terrorist organization that fights NATO forces in Afghanistan (Denver Post).
A self-radicalized Uzbek man, Ulugbek Kodirov, pleaded guilty on February 10 in a federal court in Alabama to plotting to kill President Barack Obama on behalf of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), to providing material support to terrorists, and to illegal weapons possession (Reuters, AP, FBI).
Charges filed against Pakistani Gitmo detainee
Defense Department prosecutors on February 14 filed charges against a Pakistani-born former Baltimore resident, Majid Khan, who has been held at Guantánamo Bay since 2006 accused of attempting to assassinate former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf at a mosque in Karachi, though the planned suicide attack was never carried out because Musharraf didn’t show up at the mosque (AFP, AP, Reuters, Miami Herald, Post,CNN). Khan was allegedly taking orders directly from the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who may also face a military tribunal at Guantánamo this year.
Guantánamo chief military tribunal judge, Army Col. James Pohl ruled on February 13 that mail screeners at the detention facility, who have been commanded to examine confidential attorney-client correspondence, will be held in contempt of court if they reveal the contents of the mail without Pohl’s explicit approval (Reuters). The commander of Guantánamo Rear Adm. David Woods, who introduced the controversial mail surveillance policy, is reportedly being moved out of his position at the military detention facility after just seven months on the job, though military officials deny that his departure is linked to the policy (Politico).
Bali bomber on trial in Indonesia
Umar Patek, the man who allegedly constructed the bombs used in the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks, was indicted in Jakarta on February 13 on charges of premeditated murder, illegally possessing firearms and explosives, and concealing information about other terrorist attacks (CNN, BBC, AP, AFP, Tel, NYT). Patek was arrested last January in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the same town in which Osama bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. Navy SEALs, and was extradited from Pakistan to his home country of Indonesia in August.
Three Iranian men were detained in Bangkok, Thailand on February 14 when they accidentally detonated explosives that Thai police say the suspects planned to use against Israeli diplomats in the country, and that are similar to bombs used to target Israeli diplomats in New Delhi, India and Tbilisi, Georgia. (AP). Thai police are still looking for the Iranian woman who rented the house in which the first explosive was accidentally detonated, and another Iranian man who was seen leaving the house on the day the blasts took place (CNN, BBC, Reuters, Tel, Guardian, WSJ).
Four people, Tame Wairere Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Emily Felicity Bailey and Urs Signer, went on trial in New Zealand on February 13 on charges of belonging to a criminal organization and illegal weapons possession for their alleged involvement in military-style training camps in the Te Urewere region (NZHerald, NZHerald, NZHerald). Police raided the alleged training camps in 2007 on suspicion that indigenous people in the region — a historically contested part of New Zealand — were planning to wage a separatist war against the New Zealand government.
Czech police on February 15 recommended that four suspected members of the North Caucasus militant group Jamaat Islamiat be prosecuted for terrorism in what would be the Czech Republic’s first terrorism trial (Local). Three of the suspects are Russian nationals – two of whom were arrested in Berlin last year – while the fourth suspect is a Moldovan citizen.
Britain releases radical cleric from jail
Radical Islamic cleric Abu Qatada was released from a British jail on February 13 after a judge ruled last week that he could no longer be held without charge, and is now being kept under house arrest by a contingent of 60 police officers stationed outside his home (BBC, Reuters). Britain’s Home Office Minister James Brokenshire met with Jordanian officials on February 14 in an effort to find a way around the European Court of Human Rights decision to block Abu Qatada’s deportation from the U.K. to Jordan on the grounds that he would likely be abused in Jordanian custody (AP). And CNN’s Tim Lister on February 14 examined whether or not Abu Qatada’s espousal of extremist views should be considered support for terrorism (CNN).
An Iraqi-born cleric, Mullah Krekar, pleaded innocent in a Norwegian court on February 15 to charges that he threatened Norwegian politicians and encouraged suicide bombings (AP). Krekar founded the Kurdish militant group Ansar al-Islam, which has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department and is suspected of carrying out suicide bombings against U.S. forces in Iraq.
Trials and Tribulations
- Three Democratic New York State senators introduced a bill on February 10 that would establish an independent inspector to oversee the New York Police Department, following reports of civil rights abuses including targeted surveillance of Muslim communities (AP).
- Osama bin Laden purportedly told his children they "should not follow him down the road to jihad," according to the brother of bin Laden’s youngest widow, Yemeni Amal al-Sadah, who is still being detained in Pakistan (AFP).
- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 14 that the United States will not release any Taliban militants from Gitmo as a peace-building measure with the Afghan Taliban unless he is sure they won’t return to the insurgency (AP).