Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Al Qaida cook handed jail term

A court sketch of al Qaida cook Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi

A Guantanamo jury has recommended a 14-year sentence for an al Qaida cook, though he could be released much sooner under a secret plea bargain that will limit the time he spends in prison.

Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi, of Sudan, pleaded guilty last month to supporting terrorism, making him only the fourth Guantanamo detainee to be convicted since the prison, which has held nearly 800 men, was opened in 2002.

Military officials say al-Qosi's sentence would not be disclosed publicly until it was reviewed by a Pentagon official known as the tribunals' convening authority, which could take several weeks.

Critics said the case's handling dashed hopes that the offshore tribunal system would be more transparent under President Barack Obama.

"To find out that the first conviction under the Obama administration is accompanied by a secret plea agreement, coupled with a dummy sentence, it's really troubling," said Andrea Prasow, a lawyer observing the hearings for Human Rights Watch who added: "I think this proceeding was a farce."

Judge Nancy Paul, an Air Force lieutenant colonel told jurors they could sentence al-Qosi to between 12 and 15 years in prison - a range reportedly well above the terms of the plea bargain - and the detainee would not receive credit for the eight years and seven months already spent in confinement.

As part of the plea agreement, the 50-year-old detainee signed a statement declaring that he followed Osama bin Laden after the al Qaida leader's expulsion from Sudan in 1996 and continued working for him in Afghanistan.

Al-Qosi said he learned after they happened that al Qaida was behind the US Embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998 and the 9/11 attack on the United States, but he was not involved in their planning.

He was arrested in Pakistan after fleeing the al Qaida hideout at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, during the US-led invasion.

The only witness for the prosecution at Wednesday's sentencing hearing, al Qaida expert Robert McFadden, testified that only the most loyal followers of bin Laden would be allowed close enough to become a cook or driver.

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