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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid