By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
July 7, 2010 - A Sudanese man pleaded guilty in a military commission today to conspiracy and providing material support to al-Qaida in the five years leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.
Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, 50, pleaded guilty at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to two charges for his support to al-Qaida and for conspiring to commit terrorism from August 1996 until his capture in December 2001.
The conviction marks the first case prosecuted under the Obama administration and the Military Commissions Act of 2009, which the president signed in October. The new law changed several areas of the 2006 Military Commissions Act:
-- While the 2006 Act prohibited the use of any statements obtained by torture, the new law does not distinguish between statements taken prior to passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act and those taken after;
-- The 2009 Act places the burden of proving whether hearsay statements are admissible on the party who intends to use the statements;
-- The accused is now entitled to request individual military counsel and to receive additional counsel if the charges carry a possible death penalty;
-- The 2009 Act adds an additional appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit; and
-- The 2009 Act replaces the term "unlawful combatants" with "unprivileged belligerents."
The plea provided a window into the movements of al-Qaida under Osama bin Laden's leadership leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Al Qosi served as a bodyguard and driver for bin Laden from 1996 to 2001, according to commission documents. He lived with bin Laden and other al-Qaida members at a compound near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, from 1996 to 1998 before he and the rest of the group relocated to Kandahar.
Throughout that time, al Qosi traveled with other members from Kandahar to "the front" near the Afghan capital of Kabul, where he fought in support of al-Qaida as part of a mortar crew.
About two weeks before 9/11, al Qosi and others followed bin Laden's orders to evacuate the Kandahar compound. Armed with AK-47 assault rifles, al Qosi and others traveled in a convoy with bin Laden and camped between Kabul, Khost and Jalalabad. From October through December of 2001, al Qosi and others, armed with AK-47s, traveled with bin Laden to the mountainous Tora Bora area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
In the first two weeks of December 2001, al Qosi and others traveled away from bin Laden in Tora Bora, where they came under fire by U.S. forces and subsequently were captured.
The commission's presiding military judge, Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul, questioned al Qosi as to whether he understood the charges against him and if his plea was voluntary. Al Qosi answered in the affirmative, and Paul accepted the plea.
Al Qosi was represented by a team of three defense attorneys at no cost to him, military officials said.
Navy Capt. David C. Iglesias, an official spokesman in the case and a commission prosecutor for two years, said Paul was "meticulous" in questioning al Qosi during the three-hour hearing, "and he passed with flying colors."
Iglesias, who also has served as a military defense attorney and state and federal prosecutor, said Paul "took much more time than a state or federal judge would take."
Al Qosi is the fourth person prosecuted under the military commissions. Al Qosi is the second to plead guilty; two others were convicted in trials.
Al Qosi faces a maximum penalty of life in prison on the two charges, Iglesias said. His sentence will be determined by 12 military officers as part of the commission at an Aug. 9 sentencing hearing, he said.
Al Qosi will remain at Guantanamo Bay for the time being, Iglesias said, and it is not yet known where he will serve out his sentence. "That probably will be determined at the highest levels of government," he said.
Iglesias said today's proceeding "represents progress in our country's ongoing struggle against terrorism."