A jury at Guantanamo’s second war-crimes trial reached a verdict Friday on whether al-Qaeda’s alleged “media secretary” is guilty of war crimes that could put him in prison for life.
But the decision was not to be announced until today because defendant Ali Hamza al-Bahlul was already back in his maximum-security cell when the verdict was reached, said the judge, Air Force Colonel Ronald Gregory. The judge said he told al-Bahlul no announcement would be made without his presence.
The nine jurors, all Pentagon-approved US military officers, deliberated for four hours. The accused offered no defense after calling the proceedings a “legal farce.”
The prosecution said al-Balhul’s violent propaganda videos helped inspire the Sept. 11 attacks. The Yemeni prisoner also helped prepare at least two Sept. 11 hijackers for their mission and instructed many other terrorists through videos he created as a propagandist for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Army Major Daniel Cowhig said.
“The accused shouted through the medium of video, the Internet, and DVDs: Love death, hate life,” Cowhig told the jury at the isolated Navy base.
Al-Bahul refused to present a defense in the weeklong trial, and his Pentagon-appointed lawyer did not speak at all in deference to his client’s wishes, declining to answer questions from the judge.
A Yemeni who was brought to Guantanamo in 2002, al-Bahul is the second prisoner to go through a war crimes trial under the special military commissions system. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of conspiracy, supporting terrorism and solicitation to commit murder.
The military claims al-Bahlul committed war crimes by serving as chief propagandist for al-Qaeda and as an aide to its leader, Osama bin Laden. Videos made by the defendant were allegedly shown to terrorist recruits at training camps in Afghanistan.
Cowhig said he also arranged for lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta to swear a loyalty oath to bin Laden, and prepared martyrdom wills for Atta and fellow hijacker Ziad Jarrah in preparation for the attacks against the US.
“[These videos] contain the thoughts, the beliefs, the ideals of the accused,” the prosecutor said.
The military says al-Bahlul repeatedly admitted to interrogators that he was al-Qaeda’s media chief and made propaganda videos for bin Laden.
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