U.S. Military Commissions to Resume This Week at Guantanamo
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, April 3, 2006 U.S. military commissions proceedings resume this week in the cases of four enemy combatants held here since 2002.
Proceedings will resume in the cases of Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul, a Yemeni man accused of crafting terrorist propaganda, and Canadian teen Omar Ahmed Khadr, who officials say killed a U.S. servicemember while fighting for al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Proceedings will begin against Abdul Zahir, an Afghan man accused of working as a translator and accountant for al Qaeda in Afghanistan and planning explosives attacks against U.S. forces, and Binyam Ahmed Muhammad, an Ethiopian man accused of conspiring to build and use an improvised "dirty" bomb with Jose Padilla, a terror suspect facing criminal charges in Miami.
Military commissions proceedings began against Bahlul in August 2004 but were halted by a federal district judge's ruling in November 2004. An appeals court decision in July 2005 overturned that ruling, and hearings resumed in January 2006. The January hearings were punctuated by dramatic antics from Bahlul, who boycotted the proceedings and refused to speak to his appointed military attorney because his request to represent himself was denied in July 2005.
Military documents summing up the charges against Bahlul allege that Osama bin Laden commissioned him to make a propaganda video glorifying the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 in Yemen, which killed 17 U.S. sailors, and to collect news feeds showing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. In his first appearance before the military commission, in August 2004, Bahlul admitted being a member of al Qaeda.
Khadr was born in Canada in 1986 to a family of terrorists, according to U.S. military documents. His father, Ahmed Khadr, is said to have been a close associate of bin Laden and other senior al Qaeda members, who ran a charity supposedly for the support of Afghan orphans. In reality, U.S. officials said, the group, "Health and Education Project International Canada," was channeling funds to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.
Khadr is said to have trained extensively in terrorist camps in Afghanistan and became an explosives expert specializing in remotely detonated improvised explosive devices, according to the charges against him. Attempted murder charges are based on the allegation that he emplaced IEDs on routes frequented by U.S. military convoys.
A murder charge stems from July 27, 2002, the date of his capture by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. According to U.S. military documents, U.S. forces surrounded a compound that housed Khadr and other al Qaeda members. A firefight ensued, killing Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer and two Afghan military members. Several other U.S. military members were injured. Officials allege Khadr, who was 15 at the time, threw the grenade that killed Speer.
Zahir, according to military documents, worked as a translator and money courier for an al Qaeda commander and accountant in 1997. In this capacity, Zahir paid salaries to al Qaeda members and bought food and supplies for a guest house run by the al Qaeda leader. Zahir was later entrusted with large sums of money to fund terrorist attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, the documents allege. Zahir also is accused of printing anti-American propaganda and throwing a grenade into a vehicle carrying civilian foreigners in Afghanistan in March 2002. Three journalists in the vehicle were injured.
Muhammad converted to Islam in 2001, and thereafter attended many terrorist camps, including a course featuring bin Laden as a lecturer, according to U.S. military documents. After his training, Muhammad was introduced to Padilla, with whom he conspired to build an improvised so-called dirty bomb with nuclear material and use it against the U.S., the charges against him allege. Muhammad and Padilla also planned other attacks, such as blowing up gas tankers and spraying people in night clubs with cyanide, according to the documents.