Nation & World

Guantánamo prosecutor agreed latest al-Qaida catch should get NYC trial

Army Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, chief prosecutor for Office of Military Commissions, addresses the media Thursday, April 12, 2012.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, chief prosecutor for Office of Military Commissions, addresses the media Thursday, April 12, 2012. US NAVY

The chief war crimes prosecutor said Monday he agreed with the Obama administration decision to bring the case of an alleged al-Qaida conspirator in the 1998 U.S. embassies bombings to federal court rather than permit him to prosecute the case of Abu Anas al Libi at a military commission.

On Oct. 5, U.S. forces grabbed Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al Ruqai, in Tripoli, Libya, interrogated him at sea aboard a U.S. Navy warship then suddenly brought him to a New York court. Libi, 49, was sick and required treatment on land, U.S. sources said.

Some Republican members of Congress protested the decision not to bring him here for more lengthy interrogation on al-Qaida — notably his alleged role in the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed 224 people, including two CIA agents and 10 other Americans.

Yet Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the Pentagon’s chief Guantánamo prosecutor, said he “coordinated on that and concurred with the forum selection.” He noted that Libi was already under indictment for the embassies bombings in a federal court in New York at the time of his capture.

When it was pointed out that accused 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheik Mohammed, charged in death-penalty proceedings at the Guantánamo war court, also had a New York indictment at the time of his capture, Martins replied that Congress blocked the 9/11 trial on U.S. soil.

Congress’ legislation blocks the transfer of any of Guantánamo’s 164 last captives to the U.S. for any reason. The case of Libi, who was never brought here, was subjected to an analysis that considered feasibility, “strength-of-interest and efficiency factors,” Martins said.

Unlike Libi, who got a lawyer and was advised of his Miranda Rights within days of being captured, Mohammed disappeared into the CIA’s secret prison network to 183 rounds of CIA waterboarding after his capture in 2003, and did not see a lawyer until 2008.

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