News / USA

US Military Panel Hears 1st Guantanamo Appeal

Former top al-Qaida propagandist al-Bahlul sentenced to life in prison in 2008 for conspiracy, solicitation for murder, material support for terrorism

Multimedia

Michael Bowman

A panel of U.S. military judges has heard the first direct appeal of a convicted detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that of al-Qaida's former top propagandist.  Oral arguments in Washington focused on a wide range of issues including whether Guantanamo Bay detainees should face military commissions and if America's free speech guarantees apply to foreigners who take part in plots to harm the United States.

Held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for eight years, Ali al-Bahlul's fate is in the hands of a U.S. military appellate commission that convened at a federal court less than a block from the White House.  A three-judge panel heard one hour of arguments for and against the al-Qaida propagandist for Osama bin Laden.

Al-Bahlul was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008.

At issue is whether videos and other pro-al-Qaida material al-Bahlul produced to recruit and inspire anti-American jihadists constitute free speech that is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Defense attorney Mike Berrigan says yes.  He spoke with reporters after the hearing, which featured references to a two-hour al-Bahlul video, "The State of the Ummah," or Muslim people.

"Mr. Bahlul's conduct in making this documentary -- his prosecution for that conduct -- was a violation of the U.S. First Amendment.  Not that Mr. al-Bahlul had particular First Amendment rights, but that the constitutional restrictions on the U.S. government prosecuting someone for speech made the prosecution itself illegal.  Mr. al-Bahlul's conduct in making that documentary does not come close to the standard of inciting violence that can be criminalized," Berrigan said.

Not so, according to Navy Captain Edward White, who argued the U.S. government's case at the appeal.

"Our position was that, as an enemy combatant waging war against the United States from abroad, he does not have First Amendment rights [to free speech].  He crossed the line into criminally, soliciting other people -- inducing, enticing, encouraging, persuading them -- to commit war crimes," White said.

Oral arguments at the appeal also focused on whether charges initially brought against al-Bahlul constituted war offenses and whether he should have been tried in a U.S. military justice setting.  In addition, attorneys argued over whether al-Bahlul had been subjected to retroactive justice --  specifically, whether charges brought against him were elevated to criminal status after he was in U.S. custody.

The defense hopes the military commission review will strike down al-Bahlul's conviction.  But lawyers for both sides say that regardless of the outcome of the appeal, al-Bahlul is not likely to be released from Guantanamo Bay anytime soon.

Once again, Captain White:

"I do not believe there is any scenario under which this court's decision would ultimately result in the appellant's release.  In so far as he is detained as an unprivileged enemy belligerent under the laws of war, that would be a separate decision for other authorities to make," White said.

Hours later, another appeal was heard -- for the conviction of Osama bin Laden's personal driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was transferred to Yemen in 2008 and released there last year.

The court did not specify when it planned to rule on either al-Bahlul's or Hamdan's appeal.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More