Guantánamo

Appeals court to reconsider Bin Laden video maker ruling

A Guantánamo detainee as seen in his cell at the Camp 5 prison building at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba, Nov. 19, 2008, in an image approved for release by the U.S. military.
A Guantánamo detainee as seen in his cell at the Camp 5 prison building at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba, Nov. 19, 2008, in an image approved for release by the U.S. military. ASSOCIATED PRESS

A federal appeals court has decided to reconsider a decision setting aside the only remaining conviction of a Guantánamo Bay detainee who once served as Osama bin Laden’s personal assistant.

A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in June that the conspiracy case against Ali Hamza al Bahlul, born in 1969, was legally flawed because conspiracy is not a war crime.

But the full court said Friday it would grant the Obama administration’s request to throw out that ruling and hear the case again. Experts said the original ruling could hamstring the government’s ability to prosecute terror suspects outside of civilian courts.

The government argues Congress acted within its authority in making conspiracy a crime that can be tried by military commission.

Arguments will take place Dec. 1.

Bahlul, who’s Yemeni, is the only convicted war criminal among the 114 captives at the U.S. Navy base prison. A panel of U.S. military officers convicted him in November 2008 after a trial in which he offered no defense. The same panel then sentenced him to life. He’s been confined to a single, maximum-security cell at the Camp 5 prison building since them, even as other convicts have cut plea deals and been repatriated.

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