By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., June 18, 2014 – The chief prosecutor in military commission war crimes hearings on terrorist acts against the United States called a suspect who was arraigned today a high-ranking al-Qaida leader who served as a liaison between the extremist group and the Taliban.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins spoke at a news conference from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, less than an hour after Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi’s arraignment in a military commission courtroom.
“He commanded al-Qaida’s insurgency efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, during which he supported, supplied, funded, and directed attacks against U.S. and coalition forces,” the chief prosecutor told reporters in Cuba and watching here via video teleconference.
“These operations violated the law of armed conflict in a variety of ways, in that they involved detonation of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and suicide vests in civilian areas, firing upon a medical helicopter as it attempted to recover casualties, rewarding an intentional attack that killed a United Nations aid worker, and other means and methods of war that have long been condemned,” Martins said.
Hadi directed his fighters to kill all coalition soldiers encountered during their attacks, Martins added, which denied quarter to potential captive or wounded coalition troops.
In addition to commanding al-Qaida’s insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hadi was eventually “tasked by Osama bin Laden to travel to Iraq to advise and assist al-Qaida in Iraq’s insurgency there,” the chief prosecutor said.
Hadi was arraigned on the noncapital charges of terrorism, denying quarter, using treachery or perfidy, murder of protected persons, attacking protected property, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, and employing poison or similar weapons to force the United States, its allies, and non-Muslims out of the Arabian Peninsula, Afghanistan and Iraq, Martins noted.
He also emphasized that the charges against Hadi are allegations. “In this military commission, he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” he added.
Hadi faces the maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted, Martins said. An exception to punishment if Hadi is found guilty during trial is a maximum penalty of 20 years per charge for “attacking protected property and attempting to use treachery or perfidy to kill or injure,” the chief prosecutor said.
The charges against Hadi are the result of extensive military-to-military and law-enforcement cooperation and “determined work” by the FBI; the Defense Department’s Criminal Investigation Task Force, Office of General Counsel and Office of Military Commissions; the State Department; the Justice Department; the intelligence community; and many other components of government, Martins noted. He touted the effectiveness of military commission hearings in bringing terrorists to justice.
Hadi’s plea was deferred during the arraignment today and will be entered at a later date. A trial date is not yet set.
Army Lt. Col. Christopher Callen, defense attorney for Hadi, said today’s arraignment was the first step toward his client’s trial after waiting for years.
“After seven years at Guantanamo Bay without being charged, he vigorously will defend himself,” Callen said of Hadi. “He wanted me to say he hopes for a fair trial, but in light of [circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan], he has grave concerns about the process.”
Hadi’s defense attorney said his client keeps up with televised news about the events in Iraq and Afghanistan, although the only news he gets on the island is Russian TV. “He follows the news closely,” he added.
Hadi has family in both countries, and was born in Iraq, Callen noted.
Hadi, 53, was seeking asylum in Turkey for his family and himself because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his attorney said, adding that his client was not a proponent of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
“After languishing for years, at least something’s going forward,” Callen said of Hadi’s case. “It’s not that he trusts the system, but [he’s happy] the case came up today.”