Military judge denies admission of new charges against Guantanamo detainee

Military judge denies admission of new charges against Guantanamo detainee

[JURIST] A US military judge ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that the US government may partially amend the charges against Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Ibrahim Ahmed al Qosi [DOD materials] by changing his jurisdictional basis, but may not include four additional years of alleged activities under the charges. In this first application of the Military Commissions Act of 2009 [text, PDF] to pending military trials cases, Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul allowed the government to amend charges [charge sheet, PDF] against al Qosi as an "unprivileged enemy belligerent," in substitution of "unlawful enemy combatant." Paul ruled that the remaining changes pertaining to an additional period between 1992 and 1996 in which al Qosi allegedly managed Osama bin Laden's payroll:

are essentially new and additional offenses and contain substantial matters not fairly included in those previously referred. Additionally, significantly changing the charges and specifications … brings unfair surprise to the Accused.

In a separate ruling, Paul ordered that a hearing be held on Junuary 6, 2010 for the government to establish personal jurisdiction of the Accused since:

a pretrial finding by the military judge by a preponderance of the evidence that the Accused is an alien unprivileged enemy belligerent does not eliminate the requirement for the Commission members to find beyond reasonable doubt the Accused's status if an element of the offense.

Al Qosi is accused of serving as Bin Laden's bodyguard and driver in Afghanistan, as a supply officer at a Jalalabad compound, and as a member of a mortar crew. In October, military judges granted continuances [JURIST report] for prosecutors in the case against al Qosi, as well as in the case against Noor Uthman Mohammed [DOD materials]. 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. Last month, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that five men accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive] will be tried in civilian courts [JURIST report].