The LWOT

The LWOT: Underwear bomber receives life sentence

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Underwear bomber receives life sentence

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underwear bomber" who tried to detonate a bomb hidden in his underpants on an international flight to Detroit on behalf of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was sentenced to life in prison without parole on February 16 (CNNAPNYTTelReutersAJELAT). District Judge Nancy Edmunds said Abdulmutallab -- who pleaded guilty last October -- received the harsh sentence in part because he has shown no remorse for his actions, claiming that Muslims are "proud to kill in the name of God."

Seven alleged members of an anti-government militia called the Hutaree went on trial in Detroit on February 13 accused of stockpiling weapons and holding militant training sessions in preparation for a war against the U.S. government (APNYTReuters). An FBI agent testified that an undercover informant was paid around $31,000 for attending the group's meetings and training sessions, during which he recorded the attendees discussing violent plots against government employees. Defense attorneys argued that their clients were simply exercising their First Amendment right to "vent" about the government.

A superseding indictment was filed against Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, who is facing trial in Bowling Green, Kentucky accusing him of perjury in addition to the terrorism charges he faces for allegedly trying to send weapons and money to members of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AP). A federal judge in Colorado denied bail for Uzbek refugee Jamshid Muhtorov, who is accused of providing material support to the Islamic Jihad Union, which is a designated foreign terrorist organization that fights NATO forces in Afghanistan (Denver Post).

A self-radicalized Uzbek man, Ulugbek Kodirov, pleaded guilty on February 10 in a federal court in Alabama to plotting to kill President Barack Obama on behalf of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), to providing material support to terrorists, and to illegal weapons possession (ReutersAPFBI).

Charges filed against Pakistani Gitmo detainee

Defense Department prosecutors on February 14 filed charges against a Pakistani-born former Baltimore resident, Majid Khan, who has been held at Guantánamo Bay since 2006 accused of attempting to assassinate former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf at a mosque in Karachi, though the planned suicide attack was never carried out because Musharraf didn't show up at the mosque (AFPAPReutersMiami HeraldPost,CNN). Khan was allegedly taking orders directly from the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who may also face a military tribunal at Guantánamo this year.

Guantánamo chief military tribunal judge, Army Col. James Pohl ruled on February 13 that mail screeners at the detention facility, who have been commanded to examine confidential attorney-client correspondence, will be held in contempt of court if they reveal the contents of the mail without Pohl's explicit approval (Reuters). The commander of Guantánamo Rear Adm. David Woods, who introduced the controversial mail surveillance policy, is reportedly being moved out of his position at the military detention facility after just seven months on the job, though military officials deny that his departure is linked to the policy (Politico).

Bali bomber on trial in Indonesia

Umar Patek, the man who allegedly constructed the bombs used in the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks, was indicted in Jakarta on February 13 on charges of premeditated murder, illegally possessing firearms and explosives, and concealing information about other terrorist attacks (CNNBBCAPAFPTelNYT). Patek was arrested last January in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the same town in which Osama bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. Navy SEALs, and was extradited from Pakistan to his home country of Indonesia in August.

Three Iranian men were detained in Bangkok, Thailand on February 14 when they accidentally detonated explosives that Thai police say the suspects planned to use against Israeli diplomats in the country, and that are similar to bombs used to target Israeli diplomats in New Delhi, India and Tbilisi, Georgia. (AP). Thai police are still looking for the Iranian woman who rented the house in which the first explosive was accidentally detonated, and another Iranian man who was seen leaving the house on the day the blasts took place (CNNBBCReutersTelGuardianWSJ).

Four people, Tame Wairere Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Emily Felicity Bailey and Urs Signer, went on trial in New Zealand on February 13 on charges of belonging to a criminal organization and illegal weapons possession for their alleged involvement in military-style training camps in the Te Urewere region (NZHeraldNZHeraldNZHerald). Police raided the alleged training camps in 2007 on suspicion that indigenous people in the region -- a historically contested part of New Zealand -- were planning to wage a separatist war against the New Zealand government.

Czech police on February 15 recommended that four suspected members of the North Caucasus militant group Jamaat Islamiat be prosecuted for terrorism in what would be the Czech Republic's first terrorism trial (Local). Three of the suspects are Russian nationals - two of whom were arrested in Berlin last year - while the fourth suspect is a Moldovan citizen.

Britain releases radical cleric from jail

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Qatada was released from a British jail on February 13 after a judge ruled last week that he could no longer be held without charge, and is now being kept under house arrest by a contingent of 60 police officers stationed outside his home (BBCReuters). Britain's Home Office Minister James Brokenshire met with Jordanian officials on February 14 in an effort to find a way around the European Court of Human Rights decision to block Abu Qatada's deportation from the U.K. to Jordan on the grounds that he would likely be abused in Jordanian custody (AP). And CNN's Tim Lister on February 14 examined whether or not Abu Qatada's espousal of extremist views should be considered support for terrorism (CNN).

An Iraqi-born cleric, Mullah Krekar, pleaded innocent in a Norwegian court on February 15 to charges that he threatened Norwegian politicians and encouraged suicide bombings (AP). Krekar founded the Kurdish militant group Ansar al-Islam, which has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department and is suspected of carrying out suicide bombings against U.S. forces in Iraq.

Trials and Tribulations

  • Three Democratic New York State senators introduced a bill on February 10 that would establish an independent inspector to oversee the New York Police Department, following reports of civil rights abuses including targeted surveillance of Muslim communities (AP).
  • Osama bin Laden purportedly told his children they "should not follow him down the road to jihad," according to the brother of bin Laden's youngest widow, Yemeni Amal al-Sadah, who is still being detained in Pakistan (AFP).
  • Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 14 that the United States will not release any Taliban militants from Gitmo as a peace-building measure with the Afghan Taliban unless he is sure they won't return to the insurgency (AP).

Vera Sadock/AFP/Getty Images

The LWOT

The LWOT: Chicago cab driver pleads guilty to material support charge

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

Chicago cab driver pleads guilty to material support charges

A Pakistani-American Chicago cab driver, Raja Lahrasib Khan, pleaded guilty on February 6 to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorism for attempting to send money to Pakistan-based terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri, who Khan believed was taking orders from Osama bin Laden (APBloombergReuters). Khan was arrested in March 2010 after his son was detained at an airport in London with $700 that an undercover FBI agent had given Khan for delivery to Kashmiri. And a 27-year-old Somali-American, Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, pleaded guilty on February 6 to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism for raising money in his community to help send men to Somalia to fight on behalf of al-Shabaab, on the pretense that the money would go to a local mosque or help orphans (ReutersAP). Mahamud, who was indicted in June 2011, is the seventh man to plead guilty out of a total of 18 Somali-Americans charged in Minnesota's ongoing investigation into recruitment for the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group.

An Uzbek refugee arrested on January 21 accused of providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorism for planning to travel to fight on behalf of the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), Jamshid Muhtorov, pleaded innocent in a court appearance on February 9, and complained that he had been held in solitary confinement and prevented from speaking to his wife or hiring an attorney (AP). And jury selection began on February 7 in the trial of seven members of a militia called the Hutaree, which opposes government regulation of firearms and explosives, accused of plotting to kill police officers in an attempt to start a wider war against the U.S. government (ReutersAP). The men were arrested in March 2010, and face charges of conspiracy to rebel against the government, as well as weapons charges.

A U.S. District judge ruled on February 8 that lawyers for Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, who is accused of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, may neither see nor repress secret government documents that suggest Hammadi is "an agent of a foreign power," evidence that clearly refutes Hammadi's defense that the government has failed to demonstrate probably cause in Hammadi's connections to international terrorism (AP).

The FBI said on February 6 that it is seeing an increased risk of terrorism from the "sovereign citizen" movement, adherents to which reject all forms of government authority, often refusing to pay taxes, use U.S. currency, or even have state-made license plates on their cars (AFP). Though the movement has not historically engaged in regular acts of violence, the number of convictions in sovereign citizen cases has been on the rise in recent years, and authorities are keen to prevent a repeat of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Meanwhile, a report released by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security called jihadist terrorism "a miniscule threat to public safety" and says that cases of violent extremism involving radical Islamists in the U.S. are decreasing (NYT).

Gitmo arraignments could take place this spring

The Pentagon's top legal official, Bruce MacDonald on February 3 rejected a deadline extension requested by lawyers for five Guantánamo Bay detainees, meaning that the alleged terrorists -- including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- could be arraigned in the next few months (AP). James Connell, the lawyer for an alleged accomplice to the 9/11 attacks known as Ammar al-Baluchi, filed suit against Guantánamo commander Rear Adm. David Woods, for Woods' directive to prison staff to examine mail sent from attorneys to their clients (AP). Connell argues that the reading of privileged attorney-client mail is equivalent to illegal "intelligence monitoring" of American citizens.

An Italian appeals court on February 6 overturned the conviction of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee, Mohamed Ben Riadh Nasri, a Tunisian man who was sent to Italy in 2010 and had been convicted of terrorism by a lower court (AP). And the Times' Charlie Savage on February 8 examined the weak evidence supporting the continued detention of Obaydullah, one of 18 Afghans remaining at Guantánamo (NYT). A report released by the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee found that around 27% of former Gitmo detainees have been "confirmed or suspected to be presently or previously engaged in terrorist activities," and that it remains very difficult for the United States to ensure that released detainees do not return to militancy (ReutersNYT).

Nine jailed in UK terror plot

Nine British Muslim men were sentenced on February 9 to between five and 17 years in prison for their various roles in plotting to detonate a bomb in the restrooms of the London Stock Exchange, and to set up a terrorist training camp in Kashmir (APTel,BBCReutersAFP). Britain's Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) on February 6 ruled that an extremist Muslim cleric who has been held without charge for six and a half years, Abu Qatada, should be released on bail, despite the government's belief that he still poses a terrorist threat (AP).

Umar Patek, the Indonesian suspected of constructing the bombs used in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, will go on trial in Jakarta on February 13, and could face death by firing squad if he is convicted (AP). Patek was arrested in Abbottabad, Pakistan in January 2011 and was extradited to Indonesia in August.

Anders Behring Breivik, the self-confessed perpetrator of massacring 77 people in the Norwegian capital of Oslo last year, told a court on February 6 that he thinks he deserves a medal of honor for his efforts to prevent "an Islamic colonization of Norway" (APCNN). Breivik was remanded back into custody after his last pre-trial detention hearing.

Manning to face court martial

The U.S. Army Military District of Washington announced on February 3 that Pfc. Bradley Manning will face a full court martial for allegedly leaking thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to the transparency watchdog website WikiLeaks (Reuters). Manning's charge of aiding the enemy could bring him the death penalty, but prosecutors have said they intend to ask for a life sentence instead.

Civil rights organizations from across the United States on February 3 sent a letter to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman requesting an investigation into the New York City Police Department's recommendation of increasing surveillance operations around Shi'a Muslim mosques based solely on the congregants' religions (AP). In Canada, human rights groups and opposition politicians responded with outrage to a document obtained by Canadian media revealing that the government ordered Canada's spy agency not to discard information acquired through torture, on the grounds that it could be used if Canadian lives are in danger (AFP).

Trials and Tribulations

  • Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced in a statement posted to jihadist websites on February 9 that Somali militant group al-Shabaab has officially joined the al-Qaeda network (ReutersBBCAPCNNLATAJE).
  • Ethiopian Prime Minister  Meles Zenawi said on February 8 that his government may pardon some of the 150 politicians and journalists that have been detained under the country's anti-terrorism law since 2009, but denied that authorities were using the law to stifle dissent (Reuters).
  • Carol Rosenberg reported on February 8 on the Navy's efforts to "go green" at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, by using solar powered lights and having Navy police ride bicycles instead of using cars (Miami Herald).