Wednesday, March 01, 2006
AP: Gitmo holds military hearing
GUANTANAMO BAY US NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AFP) - An alleged aide to Al-Qaeda chiefappeared before a military tribunal for hearings that he has dismissed as illegitimate.
Ali Hamza Ahmad al-Bahlul, shown in a courtroom drawing, left, a 37-year-old Yemeni, is accused of conspiring to attack civilians. In previous pre-trial hearings, Bahlul condemned the military tribunals as "illegitimate" while admitting he was a member of the Al-Qaeda network. He renewed his request Wednesday to be allowed to represent himself, though tribunal rules require that he accept a US lawyer.
He sought to clarify earlier comments that he was a member of Al-Qaeda, saying that he did not have anything to do with the attacks of September, 11, 2001. I had no connection to the events of September 11," he said.
Prosecutors allege he served as a propaganda specialist and bodyguard for bin Laden in, wearing an explosives-laden belt, before he was captured in 2001 and transferred to the controversial US-run "war on terror" detention camp at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba.
In hearings last month, Bahlul struck a defiant tone, saying he and the other approximately 500 detainees at Guantanamo should be treated as "prisoners of war" instead of as "enemy combatants" with fewer rights. He ended his remarks at the January hearing with one word in English, "boycott," and removed his headphones provided for translation of the proceedings.
Human rights groups monitoring the proceedings say the case illustrates how the military tribunals, created to handle the detainees held at Guantanamo, restrict the rights of defendants and flout US and international legal norms.
The administration ofsays that "enemy combatants" held at Guantanamo fall outside the protections of the Geneva Conventions or the US courts-martial system.
Of the some 500 detainees held at Guantanamo, only 10 have been formally charged after four years.
He is accused of preparing a video glorifying Al-Qaeda's attack on thein 2000 as a recruitment tool for a "revolt against America."
Shortly before the attacks of September 11, 2001, Bahlul allegedly helped bin Laden and his associates to move from Kandahar to a remote mountain location in Afghanistan, prosecutors say.
In the weeks following September 11, bin Laden allegedly ordered Bahlul to gather media reports on the attacks on New York and Washington and information about economic damage caused.
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