GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – A Yemeni man accused of being Usama bin Laden's former bodyguard told a U.S. military tribunal Wednesday he regarded Americans as enemies and announced he would boycott the hearings, which proceeded anyway.
Continue Reading Below
Led into the courtroom by two U.S. soldiers, Guantanamo detention center detainee Ali Hamza Ahmad Sulayman al Bahlul announced he was boycotting the proceedings, saying he could not appoint his own lawyer, that secret evidence can be withheld from detainees and that the United States was "an enemy to the nation of Muslims."
"I am boycotting all sessions, even if I'm forced to be present," said a calm al Bahlul, who is accused of belonging to Al Qaeda, before removing his translation headphones.
Al Bahlul, who wasn't handcuffed, held up a sign written in Arabic that read "boycott." He signed the paper, dated it and presented it to Brownback. He later removed his translating headphones.
Army Col. Peter E. Brownback, the presiding officer, denied al Bahlul's request to represent himself and set a May 15 trial date. Al Bahlul is charged with conspiring with Al Qaeda members to commit war crimes, including attacking civilians, and faces other conspiracy charges.
Prosecutors charge that al Bahlul was ordered by bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, to create a video glorifying the group's October 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 American sailors.
Continue Reading Below
Al Bahlul worked in the Al Qaeda media office from late 1999 through December 2001 and created instructional and motivational recruiting video tapes for the organization, prosecutors alleged.
On Sept. 11, bin Laden asked al Bahlul to set up a satellite connection so Al Qaeda members could see news reports, but he couldn't due to the mountainous terrain, U.S prosecutors said.
In 2001, al Bahlul also allegedly served as a bodyguard to bin Laden, wearing an explosives-laden belt when traveling with the Al Qaeda leader to protect him.
About 500 detainees are being held at Guantanamo, some as long as four years.
Omar Ahmed Khadr, a 19-year-old Canadian charged with murder, attempted murder, aiding the enemy and conspiracy, went before the commission later Wednesday, the fourth anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo prison.
Khadr, who wore a red, white and blue sweat shirt, was soft-spoken, replying "yes, sir" or "no" to presiding officer Marine Col. Robert S. Chester's questions. Chester didn't set a trial date, adjourning the hearing until Thursday.
Toronto-born Khadr, the son of an alleged Al Qaeda financial leader, Ahmad Said al-Khadr, was captured on July 27, 2002, near Khost, an Al Qaeda hotbed in eastern Afghanistan. He was caught after being badly wounded in a firefight in which an American soldier was killed and four others were wounded.
He was charged with murder, attempted murder, aiding the enemy and conspiracy for allegedly tossing a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces medic while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan, planting mines to target U.S. convoys, and gathering surveillance.