War crimes trial of an alleged al-Qaida commander at Guantánamo Bay

In this Pentagon-approved sketch by court artist Janet Hamlin, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi at his June 18, 2014 arraignment on on war crimes charges at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. At left are members of his defense team at the time. All three defense team members have been replaced, twice, and this week he was represented by civilian Brent Rushforth and three new U.S. military lawyers.
In this Pentagon-approved sketch by court artist Janet Hamlin, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi at his June 18, 2014 arraignment on on war crimes charges at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. At left are members of his defense team at the time. All three defense team members have been replaced, twice, and this week he was represented by civilian Brent Rushforth and three new U.S. military lawyers. ASSOCIATED PRESS


Next Hearing: March 4-8, 2019. Lead prosecutor CDR Douglas Short said on Jan. 14 that, by then, a jumbo cell to hold a hospital bed for the prisoner to sleep overnight at Camp Justice will be in place.

Trial date: Jury selection to start on Feb. 19, 2020, per a timetable issued by the judge on Jan. 18, 2019, apparently assuming the U.S. military will meet a March deadline for the installation of jumbo cell to house the alleged war criminal at Camp Justice. Trial preparation and pretrial hearings have been complicated by the captive’s five emergency spine surgeries starting in September 2017, recovery and need to take opiates as painkillers on occasion.

Charges: The captive is charged as Abd al Hadi al Iraqi. He is accused of Denying Quarter, Attacking Protected Property, Using Treachery or Perfidy, and Attempted Use of Treachery or Perfidy in a series of attacks in 2003-2004 Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also, he’s accused of conspiring to commit law of war offenses. The U.S. government alleges that fighters who answered to Hadi committed a series of war crimes, including shooting at a U.S. military medevac helicopter, setting roadside charges that killed allied soldiers, and attacking civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Prosecutors seek life in prison. Hadi is charged in what is currently the only contested non-capital case at Guantánamo.

Arraigned: June 2014.

Judge: Marine Lieutenant Colonel Michael D. Libretto got the job June 13, 2018. He replaced Marine Colonel Peter S. Rubin, who replaced Navy Captain J. Kirk Waits as military judge on Nov. 1, 2016.

Judge Libretto_Official Photo.jpg
U.S. Marine Corps judge Lt. Col. Michael D. Libretto, sitting in his robe on the bench at the Expeditionary Legal Complex, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in this Sept. 24, 2018 Pentagon handout photo. Department of Defense

Prosecutors: Navy Commander Douglas J. Short is the lead prosecutor with support from Commander Kevin L. Flynn; B. Vaughn Spencer, a demobilized Navy reservist, and Marine Major Johnathan Rudy.

Defense attorneys: Pentagon-paid attorney Susan Hensler, who was hired for the case in the summer of 2017 but only met Hadi in November 2018 because of a delay in her receiving a clearance. On Jan. 7, 2019, the captive appointed Hensler as his lead defense counsel. Meantime, Navy Lieutenants Dahoud A. Askar and Charles D. Ball III recently joined the team, and first met their client on Jan. 7, just before a pretrial hearing. Hadi also has four pro-bono lawyers who don’t appear in court: Washington, D.C., lawyer Brent Rushforth, a former Pentagon deputy general counsel who handled intelligence issues during the Carter administration, international law expert Catherine Moore and attorneys James G. Szymanski and Robert L. Palmer.

Pentagon paid attorney Susan Hensler, center, is the lead defense counsel for the former CIA captive charged as Abd al Hadi al Iraqi. At left is Navy Lieutenant Charles D. Ball III and at right is Navy Lieutenant Dahoud A. Askar, both detailed defense attorneys in the al-Qaida commander case. They pose at the Camp Justice sign at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in this image approved for release by a U.S. military officer. CAROL ROSENBERG


Born: In February 1961 in Mosul, Iraq. Charged as Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, although through lawyers he announced in court in May 2016 that his true name is Nashwan al Tamir. His lawyers subsequently said that, on his Iraqi citizenship card, he was identified as Nashwan al-Ramer Abdulrazzaq. Adding to the puzzle, a CIA profile of the captive released on his arrival at Guantánamo called his “true name” Nashwan Abd al-Razzaq Abd al-Baqi.

Guantánamo prisoner Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, who says his true name is Nashwan al Tamir, poses for the International Red Cross in a 2014 photo taken for his family, and provided by his attorneys.

Captured: In Turkey in October 2006, his charge sheet alleges, trying to reach Iraq from Afghanistan by order of Osama bin Laden “to advise and assist” al-Qaida in Iraq. He was held for 170 days by the CIA but was not subjected to the spy agency’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, according to page 448 of the Senate Intelligence Committee study of the secret detention program, then brought to Guantánamo in April 2007.

Paramilitary background: He is the only known professionally trained soldier to go before the war court. He was part of Saddam Hussein’s army, a non-commissioned officer in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, according to his American lawyers, then fled Iraq for Afghanistan after Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, before the start of Operation Desert Storm.

Health: His attorneys say he arrived at Guantánamo with a degenerative disc disease, discovered before his capture through magnetic resonance imaging in an undisclosed country. In September 2017, as a hurricane was headed to the Caribbean, the condition became so acute he was discovered incontinent in his Camp 7 cell. The Pentagon then scrambled a neurosurgery team to the base for the first of so-far five emergency spine surgeries, which have left him using a wheelchair and a walker. Post-op recovery has forced his trial judge to repeatedly postpone or cancel pretrial hearings.


His 2014 charge sheet does not name names but does mention a series of attacks that killed troops.

It alleges he led and executed an attack on U.S. forces near Shkin, Afghanistan, around Sept. 29, 2003 and that killed a soldier and wounded two others. On Sept. 30, 2003, the Pentagon announced that Pfc. Evan W. O’Neill, 19, of Haverhill, Mass., was killed on Sept. 29 in Shkin, Afghanistan. It said O’Neill was on patrol when he was engaged by enemy forces. He died of injuries sustained during the attack. He was a third-generation soldier and an only child, according to a Boston Globe article.

It alleges that he compensated insurgents who ambushed U.S. troops on April 25, 2003 near Shkin. Army Pvt. Jerod Rhoton Dennis, 19, of Oklahoma and Airman 1st Class Raymond Losano, 24, of Texas were killed in that attack. In March 2017, al-Qaida member Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, known as Spin Ghul, was convicted in a U.S. federal court of crimes related to carrying out the attack following his extradition to the United States by Italy.

Army Capt. Daniel Eggers, of Cape Coral, Florida, is shown in this undated photo. Eggers, 28, who grew up in Hollis, N.H., died in an explosion in Afghanistan on Saturday, May 29, 2004. Eggers was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), from Fort Bragg, N.C. AP FILE PHOTO

It also alleges that Hadi funded a Jan. 27, 2004 suicide bombing that killed a Canadian soldier. A CBC report at the time identifies that man as Cpl. Jamie Brendan Murphy, 26, of Conception Harbour, Newfoundland.

It also alleges that Hadi funded a Jan. 28, 2004 suicide bombing that killed a British soldier and wounded members of the Estonian military. A BBC report at the time identifies that man as Private Jonathan Kitulagoda, 23, of Devon, England.

It also alleges he “directed, planned, funded and trained” the people who attacked a Norwegian military convoy with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades around May 23, 2004, killing a member of the Norwegian military. A Norwegian report identifies a casualty on that day as Grenadier Tommy Roedningsby, 29.

It also alleges he “ordered and funded” a May 29, 2004 roadside bomb attack near Qalat, Afghanistan, that killed four “U.S. service members.” News reports describe the four as U.S. Special Forces whose Humvee ran over a land mine in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and identify the dead as Petty Officer 1st Class Brian J. Ouellette, 37, a Navy SEAL from Waltham, Mass., and Army Special Forces Capt. Daniel Eggers, 28, from Cape Coral, Fla., and Staff Sgt. Robert Mogensen, 26, of Leesville, La., and Pfc. Joseph Jeffries, 21, of Beaverton, Ore.


Jan. 14, 2019: Pentagon shipping to Gitmo jumbo cell to hold hospital bed for al-Qaida trial

Nov. 9, 2018: Guards install hospital bed in war court for alleged al-Qaida commander

Nov. 6, 2018: Alleged al-Qaida commander taken by ambulance from war court with back surgery complications

Sept. 28, 2018: Captive’s surgery recovery thwarts news judge’s week-long bid to hold a hearing

Sept. 24, 2018: Alleged al-Qaida war criminal recovering from 5th spine surgery snarls new judge’s hearing

June 6, 2018: Gitmo commanders seek new prison with hospice-care wing for ex-CIA captives

May 24: 2018: Accused al-Qaida commander undergoes 5th emergency spine surgery

May 10, 2018: Al-Qaida terrorist took his Guantánamo art home as a reward for trial testimony

May 2, 2018: U.S. releases Guantánamo convict to Saudi Arabia in first Trump transfer

April 17, 2018: Defense lawyers balk at mid-2019 trial date

Feb. 20, 2018: A terrorist struck a deal to go home to Saudi Arabia. He’s still at Guantánamo

Feb. 11, 2018: Tortured al-Qaida snitch gets shrimp, strawberry Oreos and U.S. sitcoms at Guantánamo

Jan. 31, 2018: Judge to give liberal bathroom breaks but won’t halt trial of alleged war criminal

Jan. 30, 2018: War court hearing cut short when fragile prisoner can’t get a bathroom break

Jan. 29, 2018: Alleged al-Qaida commander returning to court between spine surgeries and MRI

Jan. 5, 2018: Gitmo North? Judge to hold secret war court session near Pentagon

Sept. 26, 2017: U.S. deliberately withheld medical care at Guantánamo, federal lawsuit claims

Sept. 15, 2017: Alleged al-Qaida commander needs more spine surgery; next Guantánamo hearing in doubt

Sept. 7, 2017: Doctors beat Hurricane Irma to Gitmo to operate on alleged war criminal’s spine

Aug. 15, 2017: To go home, Saudi terrorist IDs al-Qaida commander

Aug. 14, 2017: Alleged al-Qaida commander has lower back problem, skips court session

Aug. 11, 2017: Judge cancels U.S. video feed of terrorist’s time-capsule testimony

April 24, 2017: Prosecutors want Saudi terrors to finger alleged al-Qaida commander

Jan. 9, 2017: Troops force alleged al-Qaida Army commander into war court

Nov. 3, 2016: Prosecutor orders special probe of war court defense teams

Oct. 27, 2016: New, Marine judge assigned to Guantánamo war court case

July 12, 2016: Alleged al-Qaida commander returns to war court, seeks delay

May 17, 2016: Alleged al-Qaida commander reveals new name

Sept. 22, 2015: Alleged al-Qaida commander fires legal team, paralyzing trial

March 1, 2015: Navy judge named in discrimination complaint lifts female guard no-touch order

Jan. 29, 2015: Prosecutor: Female-guard dispute is al-Qaida conspiracy

Jan. 26, 2015: Female guards file discrimination complaints against war court judges

Nov. 17, 2014: Prosecutors: Prison needs female guards touching, moving ex-CIA captives

Nov. 10, 2014: Judge orders prison to stop using female guards to move prisoner to lawyer meetings

Oct. 30, 2014: War court censors word ‘female’ in legal argument

Oct. 16, 2014: New coed guard duty causing ruckus at high-value prison

Sept. 15, 2014: Iraqi captive gets Marine lawyer who invaded Iraq

June 23, 2014: Iraqi wants civilian attorney war court to navigate Afghanistan, Iraq

June 18, 2014: Iraqi appears in Guantánamo court on war crimes charges

June 2, 2014: Pentagon OKs war crimes trial for Iraqi at Guantánamo

Updated Jan. 23, 2019

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg