Local News

Military Court Upholds Conviction of Al Qaeda Media Chief

A military court late Friday upheld the conviction and life sentence of a Guantanamo detainee from Yemen who served as Usama bin Laden’s media specialist.

Ali Hamza al-Bahlul was convicted in November 2008 of 35 counts of conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder and providing material support for terrorism.

But Bahlul, who initially represented himself and pleaded not guilty, argued that his conviction should be reversed in part because none of the charges against him constituted war crimes that could be prosecuted by a military commission.

Bahlul also argued that his sentence was inappropriately severe.

The U.S. Court of Military Commission Review disagreed on all counts in only its second review of a conviction.

Prosecutors said bin Laden appointed Bahlul as his personal assistant and public relations secretary in the late 1990s. He later produced a recruiting video after the 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Court documents state that Bahlul said he was bored in Afghanistan and had initially requested a suicide mission, specifically seeking to be the 20th Sept. 11 hijacker. The documents also state that Bahlul was asked to research the economic impact of the Sept. 11 attacks, which bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders first heard about on a radio that he was operating.

Prosecutors also said Bahlul prepared what was described as martyr wills for two of the 9/11 hijackers.

Bahlul is one of at least six Guantanamo detainees who have been convicted and sentenced.

He was captured in Pakistan in 2001 and was taken to Guantanamo Bay in 2002. Bahlul, whose birthday is Sept. 11, is 41 years old.