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 Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community 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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid