Gitmo jury recommends 14 years for al-Qaida cook

Aug 11th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

A Guantanamo jury recommended a 14-year sentence Wednesday for an al-Qaida cook, though he could be released much sooner under a plea bargain that will limit the time he spends in prison.

Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi of Sudan pleaded guilty last month to supporting terrorism, making him only the fourth Guantanamo detainee to be convicted since the prison, which has held nearly 800 men, was opened in 2002.

The jury of 10 U.S. military officers was not told about the sentence limit in the plea agreement. If it is less than 14 years, the jury’s sentence will only be applied if al-Qosi does something to break the deal, said Navy Capt. David Iglesias, a spokesman for military prosecutors.

Military officials say al-Qosi’s actual sentence will not be revealed publicly until it is reviewed by a Pentagon official known as the tribunals’ convening authority, a process that could take several weeks.

Critics said the case’s handling dashed hopes that the offshore tribunal system would be more transparent under President Barack Obama.

“To find out that the first conviction under the Obama administartion is accompanied by a secret plea agreement, coupled with a dummy sentence, it’s really troubling,” said Andrea Prasow, a lawyer observing the hearings for Human Rights Watch. “I think this proceeding was a farce.”

It is not yet clear where al-Qosi might be held. Judge Nancy Paul, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, said Wednesday that officials would have 60 days after sentencing to determine that.

She told jurors they could sentence al-Qosi to between 12 and 15 years in prison — a range that is reportedly well above the terms of the plea bargain. She said the detainee would not receive credit for the eight years and seven months he already has spent in confinement.

Iglesias said the recommended sentencing range was determined in discussions between attorneys for al-Qosi and the convening authority, retired Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, a former Navy judge advocate general with broad powers over the system for prosecuting terror suspects.

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