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US military jury recommends 14-year sentence for Guantanamo detainee

A US military jury on Wednesday recommended a 14-year sentence for Sudanese Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi [DOD materials; JURIST news archive]. Al Qosi agreed to a plea deal Tuesday after pleading guilty [JURIST reports] to charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism in July. The details of the plea agreement will remain sealed until he is released from prison. The 10-member jury was not informed of the plea deal, and, if their suggested sentence exceeds that of the plea agreement, their recommendation will be set aside. Judge Nancy Paul also found that the US military had failed to develop plans [Guardian report] for the housing of convicted detainees during their sentence. She ruled that al Qosi will be allowed to remain at Camp 4, a facility at Guantanamo reserved for the best behaved detainees, until the military finds a place to house him for the remainder of his sentence. The plea deal originally urged the judge to recommend that al Qosi serve the entirety of his sentence at Camp 4, but Paul rejected this [AP report] because military rules forbid communal housing of convicts. Paul still found the plea deal to be valid because the Camp 4 provision was only a recommendation. The details of al Qosi's sentencing will not be revealed until it is reviewed by Defense Department officials. Following the conviction, Human Right Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized the proceedings [LAT report] for the secrecy surrounding the plea deal. Before the agreement, al Qosi faced possible life imprisonment after pleading guilty to supporting al Qaeda [CFR backgrounder] in their hostilities against the US since 1996, acting as the group's cook and accountant in the 1990s and as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden [CFR profile] in later years.

Al Qosi's sentencing marks the fourth time a Guantanamo detainee has been convicted by a military tribunal since the detention center opened in 2002 and the first time a captive has been convicted since the Obama administration ordered the facility shut down [JURIST report] in 2009. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] recently reiterated its call to end military commissions [press release] and try Guantanamo detainees in civilian courts. Al Qosi has been detained at Guantanamo since he was transferred there from Afghanistan in 2002. In December, a military judge ruled that the US government could partially amend the charges [JURIST report] against al Qosi by changing his jurisdictional basis but could not include four additional years of alleged activities under the charges. In October, military judges granted continuances [JURIST report] for prosecutors in the case against al Qosi. At the time, it was expected that the continuances would make way for a decision on whether to hold the remaining Guantanamo detainee proceedings in civilian or military court.

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