The Office of Military Commissions announced today that three charges have been sworn against Guantanamo detainee Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul.
The first two charges are conspiracy and solicitation to commit: murder of protected persons, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, murder in violation of the Law of War, destruction of property in violation of the Law of War, terrorism, and providing material support for terrorism. The third charge is providing material support for terrorism.
The charges allege that in or about February of 1999, al Bahlul traveled to Afghanistan to attend military-type training and to join al Qaeda. Once a member of Al Qaeda, he allegedly served as the personal secretary and media secretary of Usama bin Laden. The charge sheet states al Bahlul created a propaganda video entitled “The Destruction of the American Destroyer U.S.S. Cole,” propaganda declarations styled as martyr wills for 9/11 hijackers Muhammed Atta and Ziad al Jarrah, researched the economic effects of the 9/11 attacks on the United States for Usama bin Laden, and operated Al Qaeda’s media communication equipment. The charges also allege al Bahlul armed himself to protect and prevent the capture of Usama bin Laden.
In accordance with the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Manual for Military Commissions, al Bahlul will be brought before the military trial judge for arraignment within 30 days of the service of charges. Within 120 days of the referred charges being served upon the accused, the military trial judge will assemble the military commission. Assembly is the procedural step that usually occurs when all parties, including the members, are present and sworn, and the judge announces on the record that the commission is now assembled. The military judge will contact attorneys in the case to set an initial trial schedule.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, legal advisor to the convening authority, has stated that these war crime proceedings will continue to move forward in open trials and with more due process than any alleged war criminal has historically received.
Military Commission procedures include the presumption of innocence; a burden of proof on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; the right to remain silent; the right to present evidence and a prohibition from drawing any adverse inference if an accused does not testify or present any evidence; and representation by a military defense counsel free of charge with the option to retain civilian counsel at no expense to the U.S. government.
The referred charges are only allegations that the accused has committed a war crime under the Military Commissions Act. Al Bahlul is presumed innocent of any criminal charges unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at a military commission.
Of the 275 detainees at Guantanamo, approximately 80 are expected to face trial by military commission.