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Pentagon OKs war crimes trial for Iraqi at Guantánamo

An Afghan man walks inside the empty seat of the Buddha, which was destroyed by the Taliban, in Bamiyan. Bamiyan, some 124 miles, northwest of Kabul, stands in a deep green and lush valley stretching through central Afghanistan, on the former Silk Road that once linked China  with Central Asia and beyond. The town was home to two nearly 2,000-year-old Buddha statues before they were destroyed by the Taliban, months before their regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
An Afghan man walks inside the empty seat of the Buddha, which was destroyed by the Taliban, in Bamiyan. Bamiyan, some 124 miles, northwest of Kabul, stands in a deep green and lush valley stretching through central Afghanistan, on the former Silk Road that once linked China with Central Asia and beyond. The town was home to two nearly 2,000-year-old Buddha statues before they were destroyed by the Taliban, months before their regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in late 2001.

A Pentagon official on Monday approved for prosecution the case of Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a former CIA prisoner who got to Guantánamo in 2007 and allegedly ran al Qaida’s army between 2002 and 2004.

Unlike in the other active prosecutions at the war court, in the Sept. 11 and USS Cole terror attacks, prosecutors seek life in prison as the maximum possible punishment for conviction, not military execution.

Hadi’s approved 12-page charge sheet alleges he had ties to a series of plots, including a failed one to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and had his troops attack U.S. targets in Afghanistan that killed unnamed U.S., British, Canadian, German and Norwegian troops at various times.

It alleges classic war crimes — targeting medical workers and civilians as well as foreign troops in Afghanistan — of denying quarter, attacking protected property, using treachery or perfidy in a series of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan between about 2003 and 2004.

It also alleges that Hadi, as an al-Qaida commander, led troops who helped the Taliban in March 2001 destroy the monumental Buddha statutes in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The charge sheet itself says he made his way from Afghanistan to Turkey in 2006 in a bid to get to Iraq, on orders of Osama bin Laden, to advise the insurgency there. It says he tried to get asylum in Turkey using a false identity, but it does not allege any specific charges in that context.

Paul Oostburg Sanz, the Pentagon’s acting “convening authority,” which is the military title of the official overseeing military commissions, approved the prosecution Monday as a non-capital case.

Hadi was one of the last prisoners brought to Guantánamo, and has been held in secret custody at the clandestine Camp 7 prison for former CIA captives.

The Defense Department disclosed his transfer to military custody on April 27, 2007, without explaining when he was captured or where the agency held him. It released a brief intelligence profile of him that said he was born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1961, had spent 15 years in Afghanistan and was trained in the Iraqi Army.

The chief of the Guantánamo judiciary, Army Col. James L. Pohl, assigned a Navy judge to the case, Capt. J.K. Waits. Waits in turn scheduled Hadi's arraignment for June 18.

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