The LWOT: Hezbollah suspect leads Thai police to chemical stash

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The Rack: Cullen Murphy, Todd S. Purham, David Rose, Philippe Sands, "Guantánamo: An Oral History" (Vanity Fair).

Hezbollah suspect leads Thai police to chemical stash

Thai police on January 12 arrested a suspected member of the Lebanese Hezbollah, Atris Hussein, and later charged him with illegal weapons possession after receiving a tip from Israeli intelligence sources that Hezbollah operatives were plotting to attack various tourist attractions in the Thai capital of Bangkok (NYTCNNReutersAPAFP). After his arrest Hussein led police on January 16 to a warehouse he had been renting for a year, where he had stockpiled a large amount of ammonium nitrate and urea, both of which can be used to make explosives, though a police spokesman later said the alleged plot involved the chemicals being shipped out of Thailand for use in another country (BBC).

Radical cleric Abu Qatada on January 17 won his fight against deportation from the United Kingdom to Jordan, where he has been accused of involvement in two major terrorist plots, because he risks being tortured and having evidence obtained through his torture used against him in court (BBCAPTel) Abu Qatada fled to the U.K. in 1993 after purportedly being tortured by Jordanian security forces, and claims that the accusations against him were derived from evidence obtained by torturing his co-defendants.

Four people, including a British citizen who has been detained in Kenya for a year for being in the country illegally, Jermaine Grant, and Kenyans Fouad Ababaker Manswab, Warda Breik Islam and Frank Ngala were charged on January 12 with possessing bomb-making equipment and plotting to detonate an improvised explosive in Kenya in December (ReutersBBCGuardian). Police said they are also questioning Grant about possible links to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab.

Spanish judge moves forward with Gitmo torture probe

A Spanish judge on January 13 said he is proceeding with an investigation into alleged human rights abuses at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantánamo Bay claimed by four Muslim men who are either residents or citizens of Spain (APMcClatchy). The investigation had been paused while Judge Pablo Ruiz waited for Washington to respond to the claims, but after receiving no word from the United States, he decided to continue the probe. And a Navy defense lawyer, Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, has filed suit before a court of appeals against the prison for failing to protect his client's Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial, by mandating that mail he sends to his client be inspected (Miami Herald). Cmdr. Ruiz said that Guantánamo commander Rear Adm. David Woods is "censoring what he believes the client should get" instead or just searching the incoming mail for physical contraband.

Imam sentenced to life in prison

A Trinidadian Shi'a Muslim imam, Kareem Ibrahim, was sentenced to life in prison by a federal judge in Brooklyn on January 13 for his role in a plot with three other men, Russell M. Defreitas, Abdul Kadir, and Abdel Nur, to blow up fuel tanks at New York City's Kennedy International Airport in 2007 (NYTCNNAPWSJAFPBloomberg). Previously, Defreitas and Kadir were also sentenced to life in prison, while Nur received a 15-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to the plot, which was uncovered by U.S. officials through a confidential informant.

On January 13 in New Bern, North Carolina, Hysen Sherifi received a 45-year prison sentence, Ziyad Yaghi received a nearly 32-year sentence, and Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan received a 15-year sentence for the three men's activities as part of a Raleigh, North Carolina terror cell led by Daniel Patrick Boyd (AP). Federal investigators say the cell members conspired to attack the U.S. Marine base at Quantico in Virginia as well as U.S. forces serving abroad, and obtained funds, weapons and training in preparation for their attacks.

Anthony Falco Jr., who is accused of trying to bring a fake bomb through the security checkpoint at Kansas City International Airport on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial by a U.S. District judge last week, and ordered to spend 4 months in a psychiatric facility (AP). And a federal judge in Manhattan on January 12 denied a new trial for El-Sayyid A. Nosair, who was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to bomb various New York City landmarks and of murdering Rabbi Meir Kahane, rejecting his claims of newly discovered evidence and of misconduct by the prosecution during his original trial (NYT).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The German government on January 16 presented the country's highest civilian award to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Trevor Brewer and civilian American airport employee Lamar Connor for chasing Arid Uka after Uka shot and killed two U.S. service members aboard a U.S. Air Force bus last March at the Frankfurt airport (AP).
  • Venezuela withdrew its staff from the country's consulate in Miami after allegedly receiving threats from Venezuelan exiles with links to terrorism, though President Hugo Chavez had already announced the consulate's closure after the U.S. government expelled a diplomat there (AP).
  • Iraqi authorities have reportedly arrested hundreds of foreign defense contractors in the past several weeks, detaining them for a few hours to a few weeks because of questions over their visas, weapons permits, and permission to drive on certain roads (NYT).

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The LWOT: Gitmo observes 10-year anniversary

Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.

Gitmo observes 10-year anniversary

The 171 remaining detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility observed the prison's tenth anniversary on January 11 with peaceful protests, including a refusal to sleep in their cells and a three-day hunger strike (Post, NPR). Human rights activists wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods, the outfits worn by the first 20 detainees brought to Guantánamo on January 11, 2001, staged a march from the White House to the Supreme Court to protest the military prison (Post, BBC, LAT, AFP, CNN). British Prime Minister David Cameron said on the anniversary that the United Kingdom is "working very hard" with the United States to close the Guantánamo Bay prison, and reminded his audience of the government's inquiry into British complicity in the torture of suspected terrorists at Gitmo or elsewhere (AFP). Long-time Guantánamo reporter Carol Rosenberg takes a look at what we can expect to see in the future of the controversial military prison (Miami Herald).

The United Kingdom continues to press the United States to release the last British detainee at Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer, whose friends say he is being held in "awful" conditions (BBC). A former detainee and British citizen, Moazzam Begg, spoke to CNN about the psychological problems that have plagued him since his three-year confinement there (CNN). The Kuwaiti government has been increasing its efforts in the past few months to secure the release of the last two Kuwaiti detainees from Gitmo, Fawzi al-Odah and Fayiz al-Kandari, who have been put on a list of 48 detainees that the U.S. plans to detain indefinitely (WSJ). U.S. officials have so far refused, citing concerns about Kuwait's "track record," but a source close to the Kuwaiti government says the U.S. would continue to have custody of the suspects at its military base in Kuwait; the move just allows the men to have family members visit them.

The head of the military lawyers assigned to defend the detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Marine Col. Jeffery Colwell, has ordered his subordinates not to send confidential mail to their clients in protest of instructions by Guantánamo commander Rear Adm. David Woods requiring the inspection of all mail sent to the defendants by their attorneys (Politico, Post, AP). Col. Colwell told his team of lawyers in an email released on January 11 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that the new rules "do not allow [them] to adequately safeguard attorney-client privileged communications."

Alleged Florida terrorist met with extremists

Sami Osmakac, who was arrested in Florida for allegedly plotting to attack targets in Tampa using a car bomb and guns, met with Islamist extremist during visits to his native Kosovo, a senior Kosovar official said on January 11 (AP). And U.S. authorities said on December 11 that videos Osmakac posted online show him disparaging Christians, Jews, and the Western lifestyle (AP).

Donny Eugene Mower was sentenced on January 9 by a Fresno, California District Judge to five years in prison for vandalizing a mosque and firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic in August and September 2010 (AP, DoJ). Mower left a sign at the mosque that read" No temple for the god of terrorism at ground zero," an apparent protest of the planned construction of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan. And a former Republican congressman, Mark Deli Siljander, was sentenced to one year in prison for accepting illegal payments to lobby for the removal of an Islamic charity, the now-defunct Islamic American Relief Agency, from a congressional watch list of charities suspected of links to terrorism (Reuters, WSJ, AP, LAT).

Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi could be sentenced to life in prison today after being convicted in November of various charges including conspiracy to carry out terrorist attacks overseas and providing material support to terrorists (AP). Lawyers for the three men, who were part of a terror cell in North Carolina led by Daniel Patrick Boyd and busted in 2009, have asked for reduced sentences because their convictions were for the discussion of acts of terrorism, not the carrying out of attacks.

Investigator recommends court martial for Bradley Manning

The U.S. Army announced on January 10 that the lawyer presiding over Pfc. Bradley Manning's hearing, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, has recommended that Manning face a court martial for allegedly leaking thousands of classified military documents and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks (Politico). Manning is charged with aiding the enemy among other violations of military law, the most serious of which carry the death penalty, though prosecutors say they will not seek a capital sentence.

A federal judge in New York City on January 12 instructed the FBI to recover Special Agent Jennifer Dent's deleted emails dated November 2009 through March 2010, during which time Agent Dent was in Lagos, Nigeria and involved in the interrogation of Mohamad Ibrahim Ahmed, an Eritrean man suspected of links to Somali militant group al-Shabaab (NYT, AP).  The judge is seeking to find out whether there was complete separation between an alleged "dirty" interrogation in which Ahmed was not read his Miranda rights -- evidence from which is not admissible in court -- and a subsequent "clean" interrogation.

And the BBC on January 11 won a legal battle against Britain's Ministry of Justice, which had banned the news outlet from airing an interview with Babar Ahmed, a British citizen who has been held in the United Kingdom on a U.S. arrest warrant since 2004, the longest period of detention without charge for a British citizen (AP, BBC, Tel, Guardian). Justices at the High Court in London ruled that the interview ban is a "disproportionate interference with the right to freedom of expression" because of the "exceptional circumstances" of Ahmed's case.

Trials and Tribulations

  • The headmaster of an Islamic school in Indonesia suspected of being a bomb factory went on trial on January 12 charged with possessing explosives and inciting terrorism, for which he could receive the death penalty (Herald Sun).
  • The California Farm Bureau on January 11 called an arson fire started by animal rights groups that damaged 14 tractor trailers at the state's largest beef processor an act of "domestic terrorism" (Reuters, AP).
  • Balayla Ahmad is suing the University of Bridgeport for failing to follow up on her allegations of sexual harassment, and instead falsely accused her of being a terrorist, prompting the FBI to investigate her (AP).

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