Yemeni citizen refuses to be tried before American military court [Archives:2006/913/Front Page]

January 19 2006

Agencies, Jan. 15 – The American UPA agency stated last Wednesday that Yemeni citizen Ali Hamza Al-Bahloli refused to testify before an American military court. Detained in Guantanamo, Al-Bahloli confessed that he was a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden and an Al-Qaeda member. He refused to attend the military court hearing on war crime accusations against him because he does not recognize the court.

A source said Al-Bahloli is one of nine Guantanamo detainees accused of committing war crimes. He is accused of committing war crimes by working as a Bin Laden bodyguard and preparing videotapes to recruit new Al-Qaeda members.

Most of the 500 Guantanamo detainees have been held for years without charges. Al-Bahloli said prisoners have been beaten and tortured; however, he ascertained that British detainees will not be referred to military committees.

Speaking in Arabic before the court, Al-Bahloli stated, “I do not recognize an illegal court established by the enemies of Islamic countries.” He continued, “There will be judgment by God on the Day of Resurrection. Do whatever you like and judge as you are supposed to judge, but God will judge fairly.”

He objected to the prospect of introducing secret evidence and protested against American description of detainees as illegal fighters. He explained, “We are war captives and legal fighters according to our religion. We do not care about your descriptions.”

Al-Bahloli refused to meet Army-appointed defense lawyer, Major Tom Filner, saying he will represent himself. He faces life imprisonment if found guilty. He refused to confess to or deny charges against him. Al-Bahloli concluded his participation in court procedures by saying one English word, “boycott,” then took off headphones through which he was following Arabic translation. The military court set a May 15 preliminary trial date.

The Pentagon is going ahead with the case, although an American court had stopped the trial of three other Guantanamo prisoners, waiting for a Supreme Court ruling which will determine whether Bush has the right to establish such courts. The Supreme Court will hold a hearing in March.

America now is facing internal and external criticism over its handling of the Guantanamo affair. Since the first detainees arrived from Afghanistan January 11, 2002, they still are handcuffed and made to wear dark glasses and surgical masks.

In related news, 10 American lawyers from the Constitutional Rights Protection Center will travel to Sana'a to meet the families of Yemeni Guantanamo prisoners. A source from Human Rights Organization for Protection of Rights and Freedom (HOOD) said the lawyers will inform prisoners' families about procedures to defend their relatives and reflect on what is to be done next in continuing their efforts. The source told News Yemen the lawyers will hold a press conference at the end of the meetings.