TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A court-martial opened Tuesday against an Arabic translator for the Air Force who is accused of spying at the Guantanamo Bay military prison camp.
Senior Airman Ahmad I. Al Halabi (search), 24, is accused of trying to deliver more than 180 written and e-mail messages from Guantanamo detainees to Syria. The government says he stored the messages on his laptop and planned to carry them overseas.
He also is accused of trying to deliver secret documents about prison camp operations and names and other personal information about detainees to Syria with "reason to believe it would be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of Syria," according to court documents.
Al Halabi was the first of four Guantanamo Bay (search) workers arrested as part of an investigation into possible security breaches at the prison. His lawyer said he could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted of the most serious counts.
Al Halabi was arraigned on 17 counts of espionage, lying and disobeying orders. He also is accused of failing to report his contacts with the Syrian Embassy to his superiors and repeatedly lying to Air Force investigators.
While Al Halabi chose not to enter a plea Tuesday, his attorney, Maj. James Key, said he anticipates his client "would plead not guilty to all the charges."
Col. Barbara Brand, the military judge in the case, scheduled the next hearing for March 24.
Al Halabi was arrested in July after spending nine months working at the prison camp in Cuba that holds some 660 suspected Al Qaeda (search) or Taliban (search) members. He previously was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California, where he worked as a supply clerk.
A naturalized American born in Syria, Al Halabi was arrested at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida at the start of a leave from Guantanamo, when he was heading to Syria to marry his fiancee.
Air Force officials dropped some of the most serious charges last month. The Air Force has not said why it dropped the single count that carried the death penalty -- a charge of "aiding the enemy."