The LWOT: Awlaki convicted, in Yemen; New filings in Ghailani sentencing

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GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images
GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images
GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Editor's Note: Peter Bergen, the Director of the New America Foundation's National Security Studies Program, published last Tuesday his comprehensive history of the War on Terror, The Longest War: The Enduring Struggle Between America and Al-Qaeda. Reviews of the book can be found here, here, and here. More importantly, however, Bergen appeared on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show last night to discuss the book (Comedy Central).

Awlaki convicted in absentia...in Yemen

A Yemeni court Jan. 17 convicted radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in absentia to 10 years in prison for inciting the killing of a French oil worker last October, as well as for belonging to a terrorist organization (AJE, AFP, CNN, Reuters, AP). Awlaki's cousin Othman received an eight-year sentence in absentia, while the killer, Hisham Assem, was sentenced to death.

Editor’s Note: Peter Bergen, the Director of the New America Foundation’s National Security Studies Program, published last Tuesday his comprehensive history of the War on Terror, The Longest War: The Enduring Struggle Between America and Al-Qaeda. Reviews of the book can be found here, here, and here. More importantly, however, Bergen appeared on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show last night to discuss the book (Comedy Central).

Awlaki convicted in absentia…in Yemen

A Yemeni court Jan. 17 convicted radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in absentia to 10 years in prison for inciting the killing of a French oil worker last October, as well as for belonging to a terrorist organization (AJE, AFP, CNN, Reuters, AP). Awlaki’s cousin Othman received an eight-year sentence in absentia, while the killer, Hisham Assem, was sentenced to death.

An article penned by Awlaki on the justifications for taking money and property from Americans and other Westerns appeared in the most recent issue of AQAP’s English-language publication Inspire, released online this weekend and edited by American Samir Khan (ABC). A Yemeni journalist and al Qaeda expert who interviewed Awlaki in 2009, Abdulelah Shai, was sentenced to five years in prison for "aiding" al Qaeda as well as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a charge he denies (Reuters).

CBS News and 60 Minutes have a must-read feature on the security, political and economic environment in Yemen, and the sometimes uncertain partnership with the United States in the fight against AQAP (CBS). Dozens of protesters in Yemen this weekend called for the release of the 92 Guantánamo detainees from Yemen, some of whom have been cleared for release but kept at the prison due to Yemen’s precarious security situation (The National).

And in his first interview after undergoing heart surgery, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that President Barack Obama had adopted many of the Bush administration counterterrorism policies, and learned that, "he’s not going to be able to close Guantanamo" (TIME, The Hill).  

New filings in Ghailani sentencing 

In a filing late Friday, prosecutors in the case of former CIA and Guantánamo Bay detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani introduced an interrogation report from before Ghailani was introduced to the civilian courts, where Ghailani reportedly said he knew of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, "about a week before it was bombed" (NYT). Ghailani was the first former CIA and Guantánamo detainee to face civilian trial, and prosecutors are currently seeking a life sentence after his conviction in November on one count of conspiracy to destroy U.S. government property in the embassy bombing.

In extensive interviews with the New York Times, Ghailani’s defense attorneys laid out in detail their strategy for defending their client, which focused on the argument that Ghailani was an unwitting "dupe" in the preparations for the attack (NYT).

Lawyers for four men convicted of plotting to attack synagogues and an Air National Guard base in New York have asked a judge to grant their clients a new trial, alleging among other things that the government informant who played a key role in the case, Shahed Hussain, committed perjury before the court (Times Herald-Record).

And a New York judge last Thursday sentenced Guyana native Abdel Nur to 15 years in prison for providing material support in a plot to attack fuel tanks and a fuel line running into JFK International Airport in New York (CNN, UPI, FBI). Nur pled guilty last June to seeking out American al Qaeda operative Adnan el-Shukrijumah in relation to the planned attack, and introducing the plotters to Caribbean militant operative Yasin Abu Bakr. Abdul Kadir and Russell Defreitas were convicted last July for their role in the plot, while the last alleged co-conspirator, Kareem Ibrahim, is still awaiting trial in the case.

American held in Kuwait barred from returning home

According to a lawyer for the Council on American Relations (CAIR), American Gulet Mohammed, who has been detained in Kuwait for a month and allegedly beaten by authorities there, is on a no-fly list and was not allowed to return to the United States on Jan. 16 (AP). Kuwaiti officials reportedly attempted and failed to repatriate Mohamed, after he was questioned repeatedly by Kuwaiti -and reportedly American – investigators about his travels in Somalia and Yemen in 2009 (Economist).

Trials and Tribulations

  •  The Supreme Court today will hear oral arguments on the U.S. government’s invocation of the "state secrets" privilege in a lawsuit filed by a Pentagon contractor against the Department of Defense (SCOTUS Blog). 
  • Nine men arrested before Christmas on charges of plotting terror attacks in the U.K. appeared briefly in court in London via video link Jan. 14 (BBC). They were remanded into custody until their next hearing on Feb. 25.
  • A Jordanian court on Jan. 17 opened the trial ofIsam Mohammed Taher al-Barqawi (known more commonly by his nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi), the "mentor" of slain former Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on charges that al-Barqawi and three others raised money for and tried to join the Taliban in Afghanistan (Canadian Press).
  • Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has requested a new investigation into the role played by Australia’s intelligence services in the arrest and rendition to Egypt by the CIA of Mamdouh Habib, who was later transferred to Guantánamo before being released (Sydney Morning Herald).
  • British counterterrorism agencies have been reportedly linked to police units and centers in Bangladesh known for the torture and sometimes death in interrogation of suspects (Guardian).
  • Canadian authorities are investigating an article that appeared in the Asia Times  newspaper naming 12 alleged Canadian converts to Islam reported to be training in Pakistan’s tribal areas to commit terrorist attacks in Canada (Globe and Mail).
  • Swiss lawmakers are calling for the expulsion of diplomats involved in alleged surveillance operations around U.S. missions in the country, operations revealed in cables released by the website WikiLeaks (AP).
  • After a series of secret hearings, an Irishman accused of attempting to smuggle arms for the Real Irish Republican Army (IRA) made his first public appearance in a Lithuanian court last Friday (AP).

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