The LWOT

The LWOT: Khadr trial begins, Qosi sentenced

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JANET HAMLIN/AFP/Getty Images
JANET HAMLIN/AFP/Getty Images

Khadr trial begins, abruptly postponed

The first military commissions trial under President Barack Obama began this week, as Canadian citizen Omar Khadr pled not guilty to charges that he supported terrorist activities and killed a Special Forces soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer, in Afghanistan in 2002 (CNN, WSJ). On August 10 the presiding judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, ruled previous evidence against Khadr admissible; this evidence includes confessions Khadr made at Bagram Air Base and at Guantánamo Bay, despite the defense’s allegations that the statements were made under extreme duress.The confessions allegedly include Khadr admitting that he was a "terrorist trained by al Qaeda," as well as a description of pulling the pin on the grenade that killed Speer (AJE, WSJ, Washington Post).

On August 11 the court selected seven jurors from a pool of 15 military officers, with the jury including a combat veteran and one officer who termed Guantánamo a "no-win situation" (Miami Herald). The trial began August 12 with a video allegedly showing Khadr making and planting mines in Afghanistan, though hearings came to an abrupt halt after Khadr’s defense attorney Lt. Col. Jon Jackson fainted briefly and was taken out of the courtroom (AP).  Jackson had to be airlifted from Guantánamo, and the trial was postponed for at least 30 days while Jackson recovers (Miami Herald).

Before the hearing started, Rosenberg laid out the several legal, political and military questions surrounding the war on terror that Khadr’s trial might answer (Miami Herald).

Qosi sentence announced, actual sentence still a mystery

Osama bin Laden’s former cook Ibrahim al-Qosi, who also helped the al Qaeda leader escape Tora Bora, was sentenced by a military tribunal this week to 14 years in prison (AP, Washington Post). The verdict, however, comes with a twist: the plea deal and sentencing agreement Qosi made with the government last month is being kept secret. However, its terms supersede the military panel’s decision, meaning Qosi will likely serve far less than 14 years in prison (ABC).

Sentencing was also complicated by the sentencing judge’s recommendation that Qosi live in a communal setting for the rest of his imprisonment, in line with Qosi’s plea deal. However, previous defense lawyers have argued that it violates the Geneva Conventions to house a convicted prisoner among other detainees. Qosi will live temporarily at Guantánamo Bay’s minimum-security facility while the Pentagon works out a permanent solution to his confinement (Guardian, Washington Post). The Pentagon issued a directive to come up with a policy for housing convicted detainees in 2008,but the policy has yet to be created (Washington Post).

When Qosi is released from prison, he will reportedly enter a Sudanese government rehabilitation program for former radicals. The U.S. government has been working with the Sudanese government to repatriate Gitmo detainees, despite international charges of genocide against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (WSJ).

The New York Times this week explored the confusing world of media tours at Gitmo, and the many rules governing what journalists can and cannot document (NYT).

Graham quietly introduces detainee bill

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a bill (available here) August 4, with little fanfare, which would codify legal issues related to terrorism detainees as well as detainees’ habeas rights (Politico). One controversial element of the bill is that it applies explicitly to the future detention of terrorism suspects. Critics allege that this gives the president the power to determine who is an "unprivileged enemy belligerent," that it would apply anywhere a terrorism suspect is detained, and that it further applies to American citizens as well as foreign nationals

According to Politico, the introduction of the bill is a sign that long-running talks between the Obama administration and Graham over possible habeas reform have hit a dead end, and this new legislation could signal a brewing political fight over terrorism detentions.

Medunjanin pleads not guilty

Adis Medunjanin, arrested in January in connection with Najibullah Zazi’s plot to bomb New York City’s subway system, appeared in court on August 6. He pled not guilty to additional charges filed against him last month, including conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and giving material support to al Qaeda (WSJ). Alleged American al Qaeda operative Adnan el-Shukrijumah, who allegedly recruited Medunjanin, Zazi, and Zarein Ahmedzay to commit the New York attack and is named in the indictment with Medunjanin, is profiled by the Associated Press this week (AP).

Also named in the same indictment was Abid Naseer, who was arrested by British authorities in July and faces extradition to the United States, where terror-related charges await him. However, U.S. authorities have reportedly not filed a formal extradition request; they have until September 9 to do so (CNN). Naseer was originally arrested in Britain in April 2009, and a British court stated its belief that Naseer was an al Qaeda operative. However, an immigration court ruled that he could not be deported to his native Pakistan due to human rights concerns, and he was released — before being re-arrested in July.

Two Somali women indicted last week for collecting money for Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab organization, Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, pled not guilty this week to the charges against them (AP). Newsweek this week looks at another Somali indicted last Friday for providing material support to al-Shabaab, Mahamud Said Omar (Newsweek).

And an American man accused of attempting to travel to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab, Shaker Masri, appeared in court August 9, where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing (VOA). 

Trials and Tribulations

  • German authorities on August 9 succeeded, after years of surveillance, in closing the Taiba Mosque, which gained notoriety as the location where several 9/11 attackers met. It had reportedly continued to be a favorite of jihadists and other radicals in Hamburg (NYT).
  • On August 6, the United States and the United Nations designated Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI) as a terrorist organization (AP). Its commander Ilyas Kashmiri is allegedly linked to al Qaeda, and has been charged with plotting to attack the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, which published a cartoon depiction of the Prophet Muhammad (Dawn).
  • Efforts to extradite Babar Ahmad, a British resident accused by the United States of running jihadist web sites, became more difficult this week as four Scotland Yard officers will stand trial for allegedly viciously attacking Ahmad in 2003 (NYT).
  • Indonesian authorities on August 9 arrested and charged the infamous cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the co-founder and spiritual leader of the militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, with setting up a terror training camp and terrorist cell (AP).
  • The organization of Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, the moderate cleric who gained widespread notice for his 600-page fatwa against terrorism and suicide bombing, has set up an "anti-terror camp" in England designed to teach young Muslims how to counter radicalism in their communities (Guardian).
Andrew Lebovich is a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a doctoral candidate in African history at Columbia University. He is currently based in Senegal and has conducted field research in Niger and Mali.
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