SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Two men accused by the United States of being members of al Qaeda – including one who allegedly attended a camp with Osama bin Laden – declined to appear before a U.S. military review panel at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, an official said Saturday.
A 30-year-old detainee was accused of being an instructor at the al-Farouq terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, said Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, spokesman for the Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
The man also was accused of fighting U.S. troops in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan and was arrested with more than $1,500 worth of currency from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and the United States, Borgquist said.
Another man accused of belonging to al Qaeda was allegedly at the al-Farouq camp when bin Laden reportedly was there between July 2001 and September of 2001, Borgquist said.
The 28-year-old man has been designated a “high-priority detainee,” said Borgquist.
The two men declined to appear before the tribunal, which has been set up by U.S. military officials to determine whether some 550 detainees in Guantanamo should remain held as enemy combatants.
The classification affords detainees fewer legal protections than prisoners of war.
So far, 262 detainees have gone before military tribunals. More than 100 have declined to attend hearings and one man has been released to his home country, Pakistan.
A 31-year-old detainee accused of being associated with the Taliban went before a tribunal Saturday and made an oral statement, officials said. The man allegedly trained at al-Farouq and was arrested in Pakistan after the United States invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, Borgquist said.
The review tribunals are separate from military commissions that began with pretrial hearings in August. The first commission trial is scheduled to start in December.
Defense attorneys and human rights groups say the review hearings are a sham because they do not satisfy a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing detainees to challenge their detentions in civilian courts, where they would be allowed lawyers.
The government says the hearings are administrative. Prosecutors can use testimony given at the proceedings during the military commissions, or trials.