The US Defense Department announced on Feb. 14 that military commission charges have been brought against Guantánamo Bay detainee Majid Shoukat Khan, a Pakistani national who lived in the US from 1996 to early 2002 before returning to Pakistan, where was captured in March 2003 and turned over to the CIA. He is faces charges of conspiracy, murder and attempted murder, violations of the law of war, providing material support for terrorism, and espionage. The charges allege that Khan joined with members of al-Qaeda to prepare attacks against targets in the US, Indonesia and elsewhere. Khan is alleged to have used a false document to travel from his residence in Baltimore, Md., to Karachi, Pakistan, in January of 2002 to conspire with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a plot to blow up underground gasoline storage tanks at gas stations in the US. (Government Security News, Feb. 15)
Khan is the seventh Guantánamo detainee to be formally charged since US President Barack Obama assumed office, and the second to be referred to a military tribunal under Obama after Abdal-Rahimal-Nashiri, the alleged Saudi mastermind of the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole. The five other detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, have been charged with planning the 9-11 attacks, but are still awaiting trial by a military tribunal. (The News, Pakistan, Feb. 16)
To date six individuals have been convicted in the military commissions system: David Hicks, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, al-Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al-Bahlul, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi, Omar Khadr, and Noor Uthman Muhammed. (Human Rights First) Of these, two have already been freed.
A military judge on Feb. 14 denied the request of suspected USS Cole bomber al-Nashiri to question Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh as a witness in his case. The judge, US Army Colonel James Pohl, did not give a rationale for his ruling. In January, the State Department declared that Saleh has diplomatic immunity despite his seeking medical treatment in the US. Nashiri’s lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes, said that diplomatic immunity should not apply to Saleh in this case because he will be questioned as a witness rather than as a suspect. Reyes remarked that Pohl’s refusal to allow Saleh to be questioned undermines Nashiri’s ability to mount a capital defense. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for April. Nashiri’s legal team is trying to decide if it can appeal Pohl’s decision. (Jurist, Feb. 15)