Sudanese national Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi has been held in U.S. custody for almost nine years, since December 15, 2001. He has been described by the news media as providing menial labor for Osama bin Laden, such as acting as a cook. He has been charged by the U.S. government for providing logistical, security, and other services for an al Qaeda compound.
According to his defense counsel, al Qosi was held for several weeks under “horrendous” conditions in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after being handed over to the U.S. by Pakistan. The government alleges that, between 1996 and 2001, al Qosi served as an armed guard and driver for Osama bin Laden, and from 1998 onwards, provided logistical, security, transportation, and supply services for an al Qaeda compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Al Qosi is additionally accused of traveling to Kabul to fight as part of an al Qaeda mortar crew near the front line.
Al Qosi was sent to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in January 2002 for detention. The Department of Defense filed the first set of charges against al Qosi in the military commissions system on February 6, 2004. Since then, the charges against him have been dismissed and re-issued with each of the three iterations of the military commissions. The most recent set of charges were sworn against al Qosi pursuant to the Military Commissions Act (MCA) on February 8, 2008.
Al Qosi is accused of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda members to target, attack and murder civilians; attacking civilian objects; committing murder and destroying property in violation of the law of war; committing terrorism; and providing material support for terrorism to reflect the above-referenced allegations.
The charges against al Qosi were referred for military commission trial on March 5, 2008. During his arraignment on April 10, 2008, al Qosi read a prepared statement indicating his intention to boycott the proceedings as illegitimate and rejecting representation by his appointed counsel. Al Qosi’s counsel stated she had been denied access to her client.
At his pretrial hearing on May 22, 2008, al Qosi rejected his Pentagon-appointed lawyers and requested that he be allowed to contact his family to seek their help in finding an attorney from Sudan. Judge Nancy Paul ordered al Qosi’s attorneys to work with the ICRC to arrange a phone call to al Qosi’s family by July 1.
A Sudanese attorney attended al Qosi’s November 18, 2008 hearing at which defense counsel argued for the dismissal of charges on grounds the Bush administration exceeded its authority by creating conspiracy as a war crime. They also sought to grant the Sudanese attorney permission to meet privately with al Qosi.
Following a 120-day continuance at the request of the Obama administration, pretrial hearings resumed on July 15, 2009, during which prosecuting attorney Marine Corps Captain Seamus Quinn asked for a further delay in the military commissions process for al Qosi, stating, “The continuance is needed … to address and eliminate all possible challenges to this process.” In a pretrial hearing on October 21, 2009, which al Qosi again boycotted, the government sought yet another continuance in his case, which was granted. Via a closed-circuit feed to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, a Sudanese lawyer was permitted to watch the hearing. It was determined that he would be allowed to serve as a foreign legal adviser to al Qosi’s defense counsel.
In December of 2009, Judge Paul ruled on two motions in al Qosi’s case. The first, an oral motion brought by the government, requested to amend the charges against al Qosi in light of the new Military Commissions Act (MCA), which was enacted in October 2009. Judge Paul stated, however, that many of the prosecution’s proposed amendments represented a “major change” to the charges and would “bring unfair surprise to the accused.” She did rule in favor of the government’s request to change the terminology from use of the term “alien unlawful combatant” to “alien unlawful belligerent,” to account for the changes made to the MCA of 2009.
At the same pretrial hearing for al Qosi, Judge Paul also dismissed the defense counsel’s motion to grant al Qosi a status determination tribunal before three commissioned officers or dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. Her ruling also dismissed the prosecution’s motion to punt the determination of al Qosi’s status to the panel of five commission members that will hear the case once it goes to trial.
The Miami Herald reported in June 2010 that Sudanese attorney Ahmed Elmufti, who has been acting as a legal advisor for al Qosi, has visited him at Guantánamo twice this year. As a foreigner, however, Elmufti does not have a security clearance and therefore can only speak with al Qosi within earshot of U.S. military personnel.
A hearing was scheduled in the case of al Qosi for July 7, 2010, at which al Qosi pled guilty to conspiracy and material support for terrorism. Specifically, he pled guilty to, among other things, acting as a cook and sometime driver on bin Laden compounds, and to being on a defensive line mortar crew prior to the “war on terror.”
His sentencing hearing was scheduled for August 9th, when it would be determined if al Qosi would serve either the lesser of the jury panel’s recommendation or the sentence reportedly negotiated in his plea agreement. At the start of the hearing, military judge Lt. Col. Nancy Paul ruled that it was in the best interest for both the government and al Qosi that the details of his plea agreement should continue to be sealed until after his confinement was completed.
On August 11th, the jury panel in the military commission case of Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi delivered what seemed to be a harsh 14-year sentence for the one time cook and occasional driver to al Qaeda members. On July 11, 2012, al Qosi was transferred to Sudan to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He will remain in Kartoum through the beginning phases of re-integration, and then will return to his home town Afbara.
His case is the first military commission conviction under the Obama administration—and only the fourth conviction under the military commissions system since September 11th, 2001.