DOJ asks DC Circuit to reverse terrorism conviction of al Qaeda media director

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday asked the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official websites] to reverse the terrorism conviction of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman Al Bahlul [HRW profile; JURIST news archive], the media secretary of Osama bin Laden [JURIST news archive], because the court is bound by its decision last October to dismiss the case against bin Laden's former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan. The DOJ on Wednesday filed a supplemental brief [text, PDF] arguing that the rationale in Hamden v. United States [opinion, PDF], that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [text, PDF] does not "authorize retroactive prosecution of crimes that were not prohibited as war crimes triable by military commission under US law at the time the conduct occurred," is ultimately incorrect, but that the court is bound by the decision and must reverse Al Bahlul's conviction because his alleged actions predate the MCA. Wrote the DOJ:

The conclusion of the [Hamdan v. United States] panel that Congress did not intend to authorize military commissions to try and punish pre-2006 conduct unless it constituted a clearly-recognized violation of international law cannot be squared with the plain language of the 2006 MCA and Congress's stated purpose in enacting it.
Hamdan, like Bahlul, was charged with providing material support for terrorism, but succeeded with the DC Circuit because not only did his alleged conduct pre-date the MCA, but it was also determined that such action did not qualify as a war crime under international law. There, the government also acknowledged that conspiracy and solicitation, the two other crimes with which Al Bahul is charged, also do not qualify as international war crimes, thus bolstering the DOJ's case for reversal.

In September 2011 the US Court of Military Commission Review [official website] ruled in a 7-0 vote that Al Bahlul had been properly convicted of being a propagandist and should spend the rest of his life in prison [JURIST reports]. He 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.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.