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Military Court upholds sentence of al Qaeda media director

The US Court of Military Commission Review [official website] on Friday ruled [text] that Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman Al Bahlul [HRW profile; JURIST news archive], media secretary of Osama bin Laden [JURIST news archive], was properly convicted of being a propagandist and should spend the rest of this life in prison. The 7-0 vote rejects the 2009 appeal [brief, PDF] of his conviction and life sentence [JURIST reports] for conspiring with al Qaeda, soliciting murder and providing material support for terrorism. His Pentagon-appointed defense lawyers argued that his constitutional rights were violated because a supposed al Qaeda recruitment film he released is protected speech under the First Amendment.

Al Bahlul's appeal was required under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [text, PDF], and it is unclear [Miami Herald report] whether he authorized the appeal. Al Bahlul previously boycotted much of his trial proceedings. Al Bahlul, a 39-year old Yemeni citizen, went on trial [JURIST report] at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] in 2008. He is alleged to have been Osama bin Laden's personal assistant and media secretary and was charged in February 2008 with conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder and attacks on civilians, and providing material support for terrorism. He is accused of researching the financial impact of the 9/11 attacks and also releasing the "martyr wills" of 9/11 hijackers Muhammed Atta and Ziad al Jarrah as propaganda videos. Al Bahlul was the second detainee to go on trial at Guantanamo since the prison there opened in 2002 and is the only convicted criminal currently held at the facility.

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