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Pentagon reduces sentence for al Qaeda Guantanamo detainee

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that a senior Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] official has reduced the sentence of Ibrahim al Qosi [DOD materials; JURIST news archive], the former al Qaeda cook and accountant who pleaded guilty [JURIST report] before a military tribunal last July to crimes of conspiracy and supporting terrorism. His sentence reduced to just two years, al Qosi could return to his native Sudan as soon as summer of 2012, and he will serve the balance of his sentence in a minimum-security Guantanamo Bay facility until then. Unbeknownst to the 10-officer jury that sentenced him to 14 years last August, al Qosi had struck a secret plea deal [JURIST reports] with Pentagon officials that will remain sealed until his eventual release. Under the terms of the deal, the Convening Authority for Military Commissions (CAMC), which has final review authority over military tribunal sentences, agreed to cut al Qosi's jury sentence to the extent that it exceeded the bargained-for term. Senior CAMC overseer Bruce MacDonald [official profile] had the authority to reduce al Qosi's sentence further, but adhered to the two-year maximum term in the plea agreement.

Al Qosi, one of the first to be detained at Guantanamo Bay in the war on terror [JURIST news archive], has been in US custody for nine years. His July sentencing marked the fourth time a Guantanamo detainee had been convicted by a military tribunal since the detention center opened in 2002 and the first time a captive had been convicted since the Obama administration ordered the facility shut down [JURIST report] in 2009. In December 2009, 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 2009, 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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