USA — Bin Laden Aide Pleads Guilty in Military Commission

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2010 — A Sudanese man plead­ed guilty in a mil­i­tary com­mis­sion today to con­spir­a­cy and pro­vid­ing mate­r­i­al sup­port to al-Qai­da in the five years lead­ing up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the Unit­ed States.

Ibrahim Ahmed Mah­moud al Qosi, 50, plead­ed guilty at Naval Sta­tion Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba, to two charges for his sup­port to al-Qai­da and for con­spir­ing to com­mit ter­ror­ism from August 1996 until his cap­ture in Decem­ber 2001.

The con­vic­tion marks the first case pros­e­cut­ed under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and the Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sions Act of 2009, which the pres­i­dent signed in Octo­ber. The new law changed sev­er­al areas of the 2006 Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sions Act:

— While the 2006 Act pro­hib­it­ed the use of any state­ments obtained by tor­ture, the new law does not dis­tin­guish between state­ments tak­en pri­or to pas­sage of the 2005 Detainee Treat­ment Act and those tak­en after;

— The 2009 Act places the bur­den of prov­ing whether hearsay state­ments are admis­si­ble on the par­ty who intends to use the state­ments;

— The accused is now enti­tled to request indi­vid­ual mil­i­tary coun­sel and to receive addi­tion­al coun­sel if the charges car­ry a pos­si­ble death penal­ty;

— The 2009 Act adds an addi­tion­al appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Cir­cuit; and

— The 2009 Act replaces the term “unlaw­ful com­bat­ants” with “unpriv­i­leged bel­liger­ents.”

The plea pro­vid­ed a win­dow into the move­ments of al-Qai­da under Osama bin Laden’s lead­er­ship lead­ing up to the 9/11 attacks. Al Qosi served as a body­guard and dri­ver for bin Laden from 1996 to 2001, accord­ing to com­mis­sion doc­u­ments. He lived with bin Laden and oth­er al-Qai­da mem­bers at a com­pound near Jalal­abad, Afghanistan, from 1996 to 1998 before he and the rest of the group relo­cat­ed to Kan­da­har.

Through­out that time, al Qosi trav­eled with oth­er mem­bers from Kan­da­har to “the front” near the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul, where he fought in sup­port of al-Qai­da as part of a mor­tar crew.

About two weeks before 9/11, al Qosi and oth­ers fol­lowed bin Laden’s orders to evac­u­ate the Kan­da­har com­pound. Armed with AK-47 assault rifles, al Qosi and oth­ers trav­eled in a con­voy with bin Laden and camped between Kab­ul, Khost and Jalal­abad. From Octo­ber through Decem­ber of 2001, al Qosi and oth­ers, armed with AK-47s, trav­eled with bin Laden to the moun­tain­ous Tora Bora area along the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der.

In the first two weeks of Decem­ber 2001, al Qosi and oth­ers trav­eled away from bin Laden in Tora Bora, where they came under fire by U.S. forces and sub­se­quent­ly were cap­tured. The commission’s pre­sid­ing mil­i­tary judge, Air Force Lt. Col. Nan­cy Paul, ques­tioned al Qosi as to whether he under­stood the charges against him and if his plea was vol­un­tary. Al Qosi answered in the affir­ma­tive, and Paul accept­ed the plea.

Al Qosi was rep­re­sent­ed by a team of three defense attor­neys at no cost to him, mil­i­tary offi­cials said.

Navy Capt. David C. Igle­sias, an offi­cial spokesman in the case and a com­mis­sion pros­e­cu­tor for two years, said Paul was “metic­u­lous” in ques­tion­ing al Qosi dur­ing the three-hour hear­ing, “and he passed with fly­ing col­ors.”

Igle­sias, who also has served as a mil­i­tary defense attor­ney and state and fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor, said Paul “took much more time than a state or fed­er­al judge would take.”

Al Qosi is the fourth per­son pros­e­cut­ed under the mil­i­tary com­mis­sions. Al Qosi is the sec­ond to plead guilty; two oth­ers were con­vict­ed in tri­als.

Al Qosi faces a max­i­mum penal­ty of life in prison on the two charges, Igle­sias said. His sen­tence will be deter­mined by 12 mil­i­tary offi­cers as part of the com­mis­sion at an Aug. 9 sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, he said.

Al Qosi will remain at Guan­tanamo Bay for the time being, Igle­sias said, and it is not yet known where he will serve out his sen­tence. “That prob­a­bly will be deter­mined at the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment,” he said.

Igle­sias said today’s pro­ceed­ing “rep­re­sents progress in our country’s ongo­ing strug­gle against ter­ror­ism.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)