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US military tribunal sentences Guantanamo prisoner to 14 years

A US military tribunal on Friday sentenced Sudanese Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Noor Uthman Mohammed [DOD materials] to 14 years in prison following a plea agreement [JURIST report] in which he admitted to helping al Qaeda and providing material support to terrorism. Mohammed admitted earlier this week to meetings with al Qaeda and acting as a weapons instructor and manager at the Khaden military camp in Afghanistan, where hijackers and other members of al Qaeda trained prior to the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed was charged [JURIST report] in May 2008 and has been detained at Guantanamo since his capture in Pakistan in 2002. As part of his plea agreement, Mohammed promised to cooperate with US investigators [AFP report] in ongoing investigations. If he does so, he will likely be released in advance of the 14 years to which he was sentenced.

Earlier this month, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] used the death of a Guantanamo detainee to highlight what it claims are problems [JURIST report] with the detention system currently used by the US for dealing with suspected terrorists. The detainee, Awal Gul, had been at the Guantanamo Bay detention center since October 2002, suspected of having aided the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan [DOD press release, PDF]. Gul died of an apparent heart attack after he had completed some aerobic exercises. The CCR believes that the circumstances surrounding Gul's death illustrate the inherent problem with the detention center and the policy the US follows in detaining and indefinitely holding suspected terrorists, claiming that the facility has become a purgatory, where people are held indefinitely. The issue of what to do with remaining detainees in US custody continues to be a significant issue. In January, Human Rights Watch criticized President Barack Obama [JURIST report] for failing to shut down the facility as he promised during the 2008 presidential campaign.

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