- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A federal court has agreed to rehear arguments concerning Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman Al Bahlul, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay who has already had most of his terror-related convictions reversed.

As President Obama moves forward with plans to pull the plug on the  detention center before his administration comes to an end, the D.C. Circuit said Friday that it will begin proceedings later this year to weigh whether or not to overturn a conspiracy conviction handed to the prisoner in 2008.

Al Bahlul, 46, was originally found guilty of three counts involving his affiliation with Al Qaeda and its former leader, Osama bin Laden, and is currently one of 114 detainees being held at the U.S. government’s military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Two of those convictions have since been nullified, however, and a three-person panel from the D.C. Circuit failed to unanimously agree in June as to whether the remaining charge of “inchoate conspiracy” should be dropped on the basis that it doesn’t constitute an actual war crime.

In the wake of the panel’s split decision, the entire bench will get the chance to hear the case en banc. Oral arguments are slated to begin on Dec. 1.

Al Bahlul, a Yemen national, was initially found guilty of conspiracy to commit war crimes, providing material support for terrorism and solicitation of others to commit war crimes, and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit later determined that the first two convictions had violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution, and the three-person panel raised concerns back in June over whether the conspiracy charge is enough to keep the Al Qaeda operative in Gitmo.

“The government has failed to identify a sufficiently settled historical practice for this court to conclude that the inchoate conspiracy offense of which Bahlul was convicted falls within the Article III exception for law of war military commissions,” Judge Judith Rogers wrote for the majority in the decision handed down in June.

Writing for the dissent, Judge Karen Henderson opined that she considered the majority’s decision to be “alarming” and “troubling,” and said Al Bahlul “could not be less deserving” of a favorable ruling.

Al Bahlul has previously admitted to being a member of Al Qaeda and was labeled its chief propagandist by prosecutors who said he made videos for the group and conducted other media operations.


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