GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – U.S. military prosecutors announced plans Monday to add another case to the docket of the war crimes tribunal at Guantanamo amid efforts by President Barack Obama to move the proceedings to the United States and shutter the detention center.
Prosecutors have filed charges against Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi for the war crime known as “perfidy,” alleging he coordinated a long series of suicide attacks on U.S. and allied troops and civilians in Afghanistan, the chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo tribunals, Army Gen. Mark Martins, told reporters at the base.
The charges must be reviewed and approved by a Pentagon legal official before the case can proceed with an arraignment on the charges, which carry a potential life sentence.
Army Lt. Col. Chris Callen, a Pentagon-appointed lawyer for al-Hadi, said he planned to go over the charges with the prisoner today.
“He’ll fill me in on anything pertaining to the charge sheet, tell me if there is anything to it or not, and we’ll proceed accordingly,” Callen said.
Obama has said he would renew efforts to close the detention center at the U.S. military base in Cuba and move the war crimes tribunals to an unspecified location in the United States. But until that issue is settled, the military is preparing to try al-Hadi at Guantanamo.
“We are proceeding on the prospect of doing it here,” Martins said a day before the start of four days of pretrial hearings for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is charged with orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.
Perfidy is a long-standing war crime that typically involves some form of treachery, such as pretending to surrender or mixing in with civilians to carry out an attack.
Al-Hadi, whose age is estimated at 51, has been held at Guantanamo since April 2007 as one of what the Pentagon calls its “high-value detainees” after being held in CIA custody.
Prosecutors allege in charging documents that the prisoner coordinated suicide attacks in Afghanistan around 2002 to 2004 using money from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and self-proclaimed terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In addition to civilians and U.S. troops, the attacks killed soldiers from Britain, Germany, Estonia and Norway.
Among other offenses, prosecutors allege al-Hadi led a group of al-Qaida operatives who assisted the Taliban with the destruction of the famed Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province in March 2001.
Seven Guantanamo prisoners have been convicted since 2006 in the special tribunals for war-time offenses known as military commissions. No trial date has been set for al-Nashiri or in the case of the five prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attacks.