U.S. charges alleged bin Laden aides with war crimes
Tuesday, February 24, 2004 Posted: 2:30 PM EST (1930 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two men alleged to have been bodyguards and aides for Osama bin Laden have been charged with war crimes and will stand trial before the first U.S. military tribunals convened since World War II, officials announced Tuesday.
Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, of Sudan, was a paymaster for al-Qaida, and Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul, of Yemen, was a propagandist for bin Laden, the government charged in military indictments unsealed at the Pentagon.
The two men are among more than 600 foreign prisoners held at the U.S. Navy's Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba. According to the indictments, both spent time in terrorist training camps and served as bodyguards for bin Laden.
The military tribunals are expected to take place at Guantanamo Bay, though the indictments do not indicate when. The brief documents also provide no documentation for government claims the men were terrorist conspirators.
Military tribunals are traditionally used to try alleged war criminals, such as Nazi leaders after World War II. They are similar to military trials known as courts-martial but share some features of ordinary civilian trials as well.
Suspects are entitled to defense lawyers and to put on a vigorous defense. Rules of evidence are more favorable to the government, however, and the Guantanamo tribunal suspects will have only limited rights to appeal convictions.
Al Qosi joined al-Qaida in 1989 and remained a member until his capture in December 2001, the indictment said. He traveled with bin Laden, serving as a driver and quartermaster, and also worked as an accountant and treasurer for a business intended to provide income and cover for al-Qaida terror operations, the indictment said.
Among other activities, al Qosi signed checks on behalf of bin Laden, exchanged money on the black market and couriered money on behalf of al-Qaida, the indictment said.
Bin Laden personally assigned al Bahlul to work in the al-Qaida "media office," where he created videotapes used to motivate al-Qaida members and recruit new terror soldiers, the indictment alleged.
The indictment contends that bin Laden ordered a video glorifying the attack on the USS Cole, a Navy ship nearly sunk by a suicide boat bombing in Yemen in 2000. The attack killed 17 sailors.
The video was intended to "inspire al-Qaida members and others to continue violent attacks against property and nationals, both military and civilian, of the United States," the indictment said.
On September 11, 2001, bin Laden told al Bahlul to set up a satellite connection so that bin Laden could watch televised news coverage of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the indictment said. Al Bahlul was unable to do so, it said.
Al Bahlul was also a bodyguard for bin Laden and traveled in a caravan with the al-Qaida leader, the indictment said.
"While traveling, al Bahlul was armed and wore an explosives-laden belt so that he could provide Osama bin Laden with physical security and protection," the indictment alleged.
[Edited 2004-02-24 21:51:10]