The LWOT: Britain allowed to extradite five alleged extremists

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Britain allowed to extradite five alleged extremists

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France ruled on April 10 that the United Kingdom may extradite radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri and four other suspected terrorists to the United States to face a terrorism trial that may result in long prison sentences in a so-called "supermax" prison (APReutersAJETelBBCNYT,CNNWSJ). The five men had argued that the potential sentences carried by the charges and the conditions in maximum-security jails in the United States amount to a violation of human rights, with which the court disagreed. The family of one suspect, Babar Ahmad, has pledged to appeal the ruling, and the European judges said in their ruling that no one will be extradited until the decision is "final," meaning that all appeals will be heard first (AFP).

A second psychiatric evaluation of self-confessed Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik found on April 10 that he is sane enough to face trial and a prison sentence, contradicting his first evaluation in November, during which he was declared legally insane (BBCNYTAPWSJAJECNN LATTel). Breivik has admitted to killing 77 people with a car bomb in Oslo and during a shooting spree on the island of Utoya, but says he was protecting Norway from the "multiculturalism" brought by Muslim immigrants, and that he "regrets not going further."

Four men pleaded not guilty in Denmark on April 13 to charges that they plotted to attack the offices of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in revenge for its publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 that many Muslims found offensive (ReutersAPAFPTelBBC). Prosecutors also allege that the four Swedish residents of Libyan, Moroccan, Tunisian, and Lebanese descent planned to target Danish Crown Prince Frederik during his appearance at an award ceremony at another Danish newspaper in December 2010.

Tarek Mehanna sentenced to over 17 years in prison

Massachusetts native Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison on April 12, after being convicted on four terrorism-related charges in December for allegedly traveling to Yemen to receive terrorist training with the intention of fighting U.S. troops in Iraq, then returning to translate and disseminate al-Qaeda propaganda in the United States (APCNNAFPReuters). Mehanna's lawyers had requested a 6 ½-year sentence, after arguing that Mehanna was simply exploring his religion in Yemen, and exercising his right to free speech by translating extremist material in the United States.

A federal judge in Baltimore sentenced Muslim convert Antonio Martinez, also known as Muhammad Hussain, on April 6 to 25 years in prison, following Martinez's guilty plea in January to plotting to bomb a military recruiting center near Baltimore in December 2010 (WSJPostAPCNNReuters).

Albanian immigrant Agron Hasbajrami pleaded guilty before a federal court in Brooklyn on April 12 to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists for sending more than $1,000 to Pakistan with the intention of funding terrorist activities (NYTAPAFPWSJ). Hasbajrami was arrested in September at John F. Kennedy International Airport -- allegedly on his way to join a Pakistani jihadist group -- and could face up to 15 years in prison.

The so-called "underwear bomber," Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is serving a life sentence for attempting to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger plane on December 25, 2009, was moved to Colorado's supermax prison on April 13, though authorities did not give a specific reason for the transfer (APDetroit NewsCNN).

Arraignment date set for alleged 9/11 plotters

On April 10, U.S. Army Col. James Pohl, the head of military trials at Guantánamo Bay, directed five detainees accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks to appear before him for an arraignment on May 5 (APAFPMcClatchy, ). The five men include the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and all could face the death penalty if convicted.

Col. Pohl also agreed on April 10 to allow a First Amendment attorney to argue against closing to the public the first ever detainee testimony about CIA interrogations (Miami Herald). Attorney David A. Schulz was permitted to argue April 11 on behalf of several major U.S. news organizations that the pre-trial hearing of accused U.S.S. Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri be open to the media. However, Col. Pohl avoided ruling on the matter by postponing al-Nashiri's testimony on his purported harsh interrogation at the hands of CIA officials at Guantánamo (AFPNYTReuters).

Col. Pohl ordered prosecutors on April 12 to estimate how much money the government has spent investigating the U.S.S. Cole bombing, agreeing with the defense that if they have been vastly outspent by the prosecution, it is "potentially mitigating factor in a death case" (Reuters). Al-Nashiri's lawyer Richard Kammen slammed the procedures of his client's trial on April 12 following two days of pre-trial hearings, calling the military tribunal "the only court in the history of America...where the constitution of the United States didn't apply" (Tel).

The BBC reported on April 9 that a letter from Britain's MI6 to the intelligence chief of former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi proves that the British government was explicitly involved in the extraordinary rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhaj in 2004 (BBC,Guardian). Belhaj is now a senior military commander in the new Libyan government, and is suing the British government for initiating his rendition. On April 11, a judge in Washington D.C. gave the CIA and FBI permission to withhold information from British Members of Parliament on the U.K.'s involvement in extraordinary rendition (Independent).

Trials and Tribulations

  • Iran's Intelligence Ministry said on April 10 that it had detained an Israeli-backed "terrorist team" plotting attacks inside Iran, but did not provide further details on the plots or the suspects (Post).
  • The United Arab Emirates on April 10 detained six men accused of maintaining ties to groups that fund terrorists, after giving the men the option of leaving the UAE and obtaining citizenship elsewhere, which the men reportedly refused to do (AFP).
  • The French government announced new counterterrorism laws on April 11 that would punish individuals who frequent extremist websites or travel abroad for terrorist training (APWSJ).
  • An Ethiopian citizen working for the United Nations in Ethiopia went on trial on April 9 for his alleged links to the banned Ogaden National Liberation Front (VOA).


The LWOT: Alleged 9/11 plotter to face death penalty trial

Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a 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.

Alleged 9/11 plotter to face death penalty trial

Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, the Pentagon official who oversees military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, approved a new trial on Wednesday for accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and four accomplices, who could all face the death penalty if convicted (PostCNNAFPReutersAPBBC). The suspects had previously been charged in a military court in 2008, but that case was suspended when President Barack Obama had the trial shifted to a federal court in New York, a move that was eventually thwarted by opposition from Congress and the New York public.

The top military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay has said he will request this be his last military post, in order to avoid being moved or promoted from his current position at the detention facility because, as he says, "We need to have continuity in my job" (NPR).

Poland alludes to "black site" investigation

After years of refusing to discuss allegations that they had allowed the CIA to operate a "black site" detention facility on Polish territory, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk came close this week to admitting their existence by announcing that an investigation is underway to determine how the United States was able to "make some deal under the table" to establish the prisons (AP). Tusk insisted that Poland is a democratic nation that will follow international law, and that "this issue must be explained."

The U.S. State Department on April 3 released a previously classified memo revealing that Philip Zelikow, who was a deputy representative on terrorism issues to the National Security Council during the Bush administration, was highly critical of the administration's view that international law concerning torture did not apply to the CIA's operations abroad (AP). Zelikow wrote in his February 2006 memo that "under American law, there is no precedent for excusing treatment that is intrinsically 'cruel' even if the state asserts a compelling need to use it."

A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia indicted former CIA officer John Kiriakou on April 5 for allegedly leaking classified information to journalists, including the identity of a former colleague involved in a secret operation to capture al-Qaeda financier Abu Zubaydah, and details of harsh interrogation techniques (APCNNNPR). The Government Accountability Project has said this is the sixth time the Obama administration has brought legal action against "whistleblowers," an "unprecedented" trend that "sends a chilling message" to other national security officers who might choose to reveal evidence of corruption or wrongdoing.

U.S. offers reward for Pakistani militant leader

The United States on April 3 announced a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and purported mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people (NYTReutersGuardianCNN).

Babar Ahmad, a British citizen wanted by the United States on terrorism charges who has been held without charge in the United Kingdom for the past eight years, admitted in a BBC interview aired on April 5 that he had taken up arms in Bosnia to defend towns against Serb fighters, but denied links to terrorism (BBCTel). In a public statement after the interview was aired, Ahmad called for his trial to be held in the U.K. (AP, Independent). On April 4 British police said they had charged two 24-year-old men, Mohammad Shafiq Ali, and Mohammad Shabir Ali with terrorism offenses for allegedly possessing a document written by the late Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, "44 Ways to Support Jihad," and for helping another suspect carry out acts of terrorism (AP, BBC).

Prosecutors in the case of Adis Medunjanin, who is accused to plotting with Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay to carry out suicide attacks on the New York City subway, have revealed that Zazi and Ahmedzay -- who have both pleaded guilty -- will be called as witnesses when the trial begins in federal court in Brooklyn on April 16 (AP).

French authorities make more arrests in crackdown on Islamists

French police detained ten suspected Islamic extremists on April 4 in the second such roundup in about a week (APCNNNYTWSJ). The arrests came a day after preliminary charges were filed against 13 other suspected jihadists who were detained last week accused of being members of the banned group, Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Pride, and plotting to kidnap a Jewish magistrate (BBCAFPReutersAP).

The trial of French nuclear physicist Adlène Hicheur for allegedly "associating with criminals in relation to terrorist activities" ended on March 30, though the three-judge panel will not announce a verdict until May 4 (AP). Prosecutors sought a six-year prison sentence for Hicheur, who has already spent two and a half years in custody awaiting trial.

Canadian authorities on April 5 approved the extradition of Hassan Diab, a sociology professor wanted in France for his alleged role in the 1980 bombing of a synagogue in Paris that killed four people (AFPToronto Star).

A Turkish court agreed on April 3 to try against 193 people accused of maintaining links to the urban wing of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, in a case that has sparked criticism of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist government for trying to stifle free speech (ReutersBloomberg).

Trials and Tribulations

  • One of al-Qaeda's main online forums came back online on April 4 after going down for almost two weeks, the longest pause for such sites as yet, while five similar forums remained offline (Post).
  • Terrorism experts said on April 3 that an image of New York City with the words "Al Qaeda Coming Soon Again in New York" that appeared on an Arabic-language website on April 2 was not likely to be in reference to any specific threat (NYT).
  • China's Ministry of Public Security added six ethnic Uighurs to its list of terrorists on April 5, accusing them of being senior members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which China considers an international terrorist group (APReuters, BBC).

Janet Hamlin-Pool/Getty Images