A former Baltimore resident who has been detained in Guantanamo Bay pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges against him, including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, spying and providing material support to al Qaeda.
Majid Khan admitted that he was part of the successful plot to bomb the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2003, which killed 11 and injured 76. Two victims from the bombing were in the military court in Guantanamo to witness the proceeding.
As part of a plea agreement, Khan is expected to testify against other detainees including the self-described architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Khan's defense team argues that the plea agreement should be kept secret or sealed because releasing the information would put a target on the back of Khan's family and relatives. The prosecution team, led by a lawyer from the Department of Justice, insisted the plea should be made public because so much of the information is already available.
Khan is the first of 14 high-value detainees who were held in the CIA secret prisons to cut a deal. He has promised not to sue the CIA or the U.S. government over his detention.
Khan cannot be sentenced to more than 25 years. It is expected that he will testify against other detainees in return for the reduced sentence. If he cooperates, that may not exceed 19 years and the military commission could give him even less time if he really lives up to his end of the deal.
The judge warned Khan that even if he lives up to the deal and does his time, there is no guarantee he will walk out of Guantanamo.
"I do my time," he responded. "This agreement does not guarantee me that I will ever get free. I am making a leap of faith. That is all I can do."
The plea deal signals that the wheels are finally in motion for the military commissions established during the Obama administration.
Eleven guards accompanied Khan as he entered the high security courtroom. He was not shackled and wore a navy blue suit, crisp white shirt, and gold rimmed glasses. He was clean shaven except for a goatee. Unlike other-high value detainees who have worn prison garb to the hearing, Khan's appearance was very Western or American.