[JURIST] Al Qaeda operative Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri [NYT profile; JURIST news archive] pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support [18 USC § 2339B] to a foreign terrorist organization after reaching a plea agreement [text, PDF] with federal prosecutors that may send him to jail for 15 years. Prosecutors said that al-Marri, a "sleeper operative" for al Qaeda who arrived in the country on September 10, 2001, will admit to conspiring [DOJ press release] with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to plan attacks on the US. Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] said [press release] that the al-Marri investigation and subsequent guilty plea showed that "our criminal justice system can and will hold subsequent terrorists accountable for their actions." He said that the al-Marri prosecution by a US civilian court showed that there was "no tension" between keeping "the American people safe and our civil liberties intact" and seemed to suggest that further such prosecutions are to be expected. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Al-Marri also agreed not to appeal any sentence, pursue a habeas petition or oppose his deportation to Qatar or Saudi Arabia after serving his criminal sentence. There has been speculation [SCOTUS blog report] that al-Marri may ask for credit for time served, having been held at a naval bring in South Carolina since 2003.
In March, at an arraignment hearing before the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois [official website], al-Marri pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to charges of providing material support to al Qaeda, and his trial date was set for May 26. Earlier that month, the US Supreme Court [official website] granted [order, PDF; JURIST report] a motion [text, PDF] by the US government to dismiss as moot an appeal challenging al-Marri's indefinite detention, following the Obama administration's decision to try al-Marri in US federal court [JURIST report]. Al-Marri was indicted [indictment text; DOJ press release] in February on two charges of providing material support to al Qaeda and conspiring with others to provide material support to al Qaeda. Previously, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] had held [JURIST report] that al-Marri could be detained indefinitely.