Pentagon OKs charges against Guantanamo prisoner

Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:15pm EST

WASHINGTON Feb 26 (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Tuesday approved war crimes charges against a Yemeni Guantanamo prisoner it says was a "media director" for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The charges against Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul, 39, were filed by military prosecutors this month and Tuesday's decision set the stage for his trial at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

No trial date was given, but a Pentagon statement said that under the rules of the military tribunals created to try non-U.S. citizens held as part of the Bush administration's war against terrorism, the accused should be arraigned within 30 days of being notified of their charges.

Bahlul traveled to Afghanistan in February 1999 to join al Qaeda, the statement said. "Once a member of al Qaeda, he allegedly served as the personal director and media director of Osama bin Laden," it said.

The charges against Bahlul include conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder and providing material support for terrorism.

The charge sheet alleges that he created a recruiting video glorifying the bombing of the USS Cole and other videotapes styled as wills for two of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed when al Qaeda militants attacked the ship as it was docked in Yemen in 2000.

The U.S. military began sending detainees to Guantanamo in 2002 and hopes to eventually try 80 of the 275 who remain.

Bahlul had also been charged in a first Guantanamo court system. Those charges were dropped when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that version in 2006, before his trial started. (Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Eric Walsh)




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