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

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    Iran Orders Social Media Sites to Store Data Inside Country

    New requirements are expected to affect the instant messaging app Telegram, which has more than 20 million users inside Iran

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora