The LWOT: Terror arrests shake Norway; US court demands more information on Gitmo detainee
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Weekly Read: The British think tank the Center for Social Cohesion has authored a new report on terrorism in the United Kingdom, based on a comprehensive survey of 124 individuals convicted of terrorism offenses in Britain since 1999 (CSC).
Terror arrests shake Norway
Authorities in Norway and Germany arrested three men allegedly linked to al Qaeda July 8 on suspicion that they were plotting to carry out a terrorist attack (Time, NYT, BBC, CNN, LAT). One of the men is an ethnic Uighur with Norwegian citizenship, while the other two – an Uzbek and Iraqi Kurd – are residents of Norway. Officials said that they planned to use peroxide-based bombs, the same type intended for use in the aborted plan to bomb the New York City subway in 2009 (WSJ). U.S. officials said the plot was organized by former key al Qaeda planner Saleh al-Somali, who was killed last year in a drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Somali reportedly helped steer one of the individuals in the planning of the subway attacks, Najibullah Zazi, toward attacking the United States. Authorities said the Norway plotters were linked to Zazi’s plot as well as a failed plan revealed July 7 to bomb a shopping mall in Manchester, England (AP). One American official called the plots, "three parallel efforts or undertakings that all trace their lineage back to Pakistan" (NYT).
New details about the New York and United Kingdom plots emerged July 7, when the U.S. Department of Justice formally charged four men, including Saudi native and American citizen Adnan Shukrijumah, with involvement in Zazi’s plot (DoJ, NYT, AJE). The indictment alleges that Shukrijumah worked with al-Somali to orchestrate the New York attack. It also included terrorism charges against two British men, Abid Naseer and Tariq ur Rehman, both of whom were arrested by British police in a raid last year, then subsequently released (WSJ, AFP). British authorities re-arrested Naseer July 7, while Rehman told reporters from Pakistan that he will fight extradition to the United States (WSJ).
The indictment states that the New York and United Kingdom plots were linked by a man named "Ahmad," an al Qaeda "facilitator" who allegedly took Zazi and his co-conspirators to Waziristan for training and was also reportedly in communication separately with Naseer (WSJ). The indictment (available here) includes additional charges against Adis Medunjanin, already charged with involvement in the New York plot.
U.S. appeals court orders government to provide more information on Belkacem Bensayah
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered federal prosecutors to provide more evidence that Guantanamo detainee Belkacem Bensayah, who was sent to Gitmo in 2002 on suspicion that he was planning to travel from Bosnia to Afghanistan in order to fight U.S. forces, is truly a member of al Qaeda (NYT). In his opinion, Judge Douglas Ginsburg wrote that, "The government presented no direct evidence of actual communication between Bensayah and any al Qaeda member" (AFP). A U.S. federal judge on July 8 also granted the habeas petition of Yemeni Gitmo detainee Hussein Almerfedi (Miami Herald). This decision marks the 37th time a detainee at the prison has won his habeas plea.
Meanwhile, on July 7 the U.S. military prosecutors struck a plea deal with Osama bin Laden’s former cook Ibrahim al-Qosi, with al-Qosi pleading guilty to one count each of material support for terrorism and conspiracy (AP). Qosi will be sentenced in August (Reuters). And the new Gitmo commander said that conditions have been improving for the prisoners held at the base and that acts of violence committed by the prisoners are down (AP).
Omar Khadr case raises hackles in Canada, and the press
A Canadian federal court on July 5 ruled that the government must do everything possible to remedy the breach of Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr’s rights, and is entitled to "procedural fairness and natural justice (AFP). The court gave the Canadian government seven days to propose remedies to Khadr’s situation, after which the judge could suggest that Canada seek Khadr’s repatriation. This week, Khadr fired his American lawyers, and will either represent himself or refuse to participate in his upcoming military tribunal (Toronto Star).
A new group composed of major news organizations is challenging the decision to ban four reporters from covering Gitmo after they published the name of a government witness that was already widely known (McClatchy).
United Kingdom launches torture inquiry, grapples with counter-terror policies
British Prime Minister David Cameron on July 6 announced the formation of a probe into allegations that British intelligence officers were complicit in the torture of detainees held on suspicion of terrorism (Washington Post). The probe was sparked by the allegations of several British nationals and residents, who have sued the government for its supposed involvement in their detention, rendition to third countries, and subsequent abuse (Guardian, BBC).
Britain also grappled this week with the five-year anniversary of the July 7, 2005, bombings, which claimed the lives of 52 people and injured more than 950. Since that date, the country has introduced a dozen restrictive counterterrorism measures, with mixed results (Guardian). Critics of the more aggressive program include Dr. Robert Lambert, a former head of Scotland Yard’s Muslim Contact Unit, who decried Britain’s "flawed, neo-conservative" response in the wake of the July 7 attacks (Guardian). Human Rights Watch also called this week on the British government to cease using stop-and-search tactics, which the government subsequently agreed to do (VOA, AFP). And a British court convicted three men of involvement in a 2006 plot to set off suicide bombs on multiple transatlantic flights, bringing the total number convicted in relation to the plot to 11 (Telegraph, NYT).
Trials and Tribulations
- Imam Ahmad Wais Afzali, who was caught up in the investigation of a bomb plot targeting the New York City subway system, left the United States July 5 (AP). Afzali lied to the FBI when he stated that he never told Najibullah Zazi, one of the al Qaeda suspects planning to carry out the attack, that he was under surveillance.
- The German government agreed on July 7 to accept two detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility into the country (AP). However, Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere indicated that his country would reject any future requests to take Gitmo detainees into the country. Deutsche Welle looks at the diverging paths former detainees have taken after leaving the prison (DW).
- A complaint was filed with Ohio’s state psychology board against U.S. Army Col. Larry James, a former psychologist at Gitmo and now a college dean, alleging that the witnessed abusive interrogations and did nothing to stop them (AP). The complaint calls for James to be stripped of his license to practice psychology.
- The European Parliament July 8 agreed to a deal allowing United States counterterrorism officials access to European banking data, with restrictions and European oversight of how the data is used (WSJ).
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