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World News

Guantanamo defendant praises bin Laden at hearing

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - A suspected al Qaeda conspirator from Sudan praised Osama bin Laden and the September 11 attacks during a hearing in the Guantanamo war court on Thursday and said he did not recognize the court’s authority to try him.

“I believe that Osama bin Laden has succeeded in a great way in attacking you militarily and economically,” the prisoner, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, told the U.S. military court at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

In a courtroom speech often difficult to understand because of problems with Arabic-English interpretation, al Qosi said the attacks on New York and the Pentagon exposed a lack of justice and equality in the United States, which preached human rights to other countries.

“The whole world has a headache from your hypocrisy,” said al Qosi, who is accused by the United States of helping bin Laden escape to the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

He is the second prisoner this week to use his appearance to heap scorn on the court in a remote, U.S.-controlled corner of Cuba. On Wednesday, Saudi Arabian prisoner Ahmed al Darbi called the court “a scam” and “a scandal” and said he would not attend further sessions of his trial on charges of plotting with al Qaeda to blow up ships in the Middle East.

The judge, Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul, cut al Qosi short while he still had one more page to read from his address to the court, saying she did not want him to make statements that could be used as evidence against him at his trial.

She later allowed him to finish his statement, in which he complained that British former prisoners were freed, while those from “what you call Third World nations” such as Sudan were subjected to trials that proceeded at a turtle’s pace “in order to keep us in this box.”

DOESN’T WANT MILITARY LAWYER

Al Qosi said he did not want a military lawyer and would not attend future sessions of the court, which formally charged him on Thursday with providing material support for terrorism and conspiring with al Qaeda to attack and murder civilians and destroy property.

Rights groups have severely criticized the Guantanamo prison camp and called its tribunals a travesty of justice, as have U.S. military lawyers assigned to defend the detainees.

The defense lawyer al Qosi rejected, Navy Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier, said that as al Qosi listed his critiques of the court system, she thought, “We’re not that far apart, it’s too bad we can’t work together.”

Al Qosi was born in Khartoum, a one-time base for bin Laden, and is accused of serving as a bodyguard, driver and logistics operative for the al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

The charges also allege he served on an al Qaeda mortar crew and helped bin Laden and his family elude capture in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion following the September 11 attacks in 2001. He would face life in prison if convicted.

Al Qosi was one of 10 prisoners charged in the first court system the Bush administration set up to try foreign captives outside regular U.S. civilian and military courts. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down that system as illegal in 2006 and 15 captives have now been charged in the new court system.

Editing by Tom Brown and Peter Cooney

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