Charges were first brought against Noor Uthman Muhammed, a Sudanese national in his forties, in May 2008—over six years after he was captured in March of 2002. The only act occurring after September 11, 2001, that Muhammed is charged with is that of allegedly hiding from U.S. and Pakistani forces in the terrorist safe house where he was captured in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
According to the New York Times, Muhammed has been in U.S. custody at Guantánamo since August 2002, beginning four months after he was initially captured in Pakistan.
Muhammed was initially charged with murder in violation of the laws of war, attacking civilians, and providing material support to terrorism, among other acts allegedly committed between the years 1996 to 2002. He is charged with acting as a weapons instructor and deputy commander of the alleged terrorist training camp Khaldan, located in Afghanistan, and with allegedly delivering an “electronic device” to the al Qaeda training camp Jihad Wal in Afghanistan.
Counsel for Muhammed filed a Motion to Compel Discovery, citing delays in discovery production which they argued hindered the ability to adequately prepare a defense. The motion was granted on May 26, 2009 by Military Judge Capt. Modzelewski.
On May 28, 2009, Judge Modzelewski followed up her order regarding the defense’s Motion to Compel Discovery with an admonition to the prosecution that, despite the granting of a second 120 day continuance (delay) in the case until July 1, 2009, they nevertheless continue to produce discovery in accordance with their obligations.
The following day, May 29, 2009, Judge Modzelewski ordered that the government prosecutors produce any and all medical records for Muhammed in their possession to his defense counsel. In October 2009, the Miami Herald quoted the Marine prosecutor as stating during a pretrial hearing that there was “no record of [medical] treatment of Noor across 125 days of custody in Pakistan and the U.S. interrogation outpost at Bagram, Afghanistan.” At this point it was uncertain when the next pretrial hearing for Muhammed will take place.
A brief military commission hearing was held in Muhammed’s case on April 7, 2010 regarding whether his previous military defense counsel could continue to represent him after she had been ordered by the military to another assignment. Also at the hearing, in response to the prosecution’s request to substitute classified evidence in the case, Judge Modzelewski stated that it could take until January or February 2011 to review it and begin the actual trial. Muhammed’s defense attorney, Howard Cabot, after the hearing called it “plainly unacceptable…Noor has been here [in Guantánamo] for eight years now.”
On September 21st, 2010, the military commission held a hearing to consider a host of pre-trial issues, including whether it is constitutional for the commission, with its subpar procedural safeguards, to try Muhammed – an alien – while exempting U.S. citizens from the military commissions system. An additional pre-trial hearing was set for November 8, 2010, to decide whether the commission has jurisdiction over Muhammed to hear his case, however the hearing was postponed in late October.
Hearings for Muhammed resumed on February 15, 2011, and he pled guilty to altered charges of material support for terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts via plea bargain. In a sentencing hearing before a military panel, it was recommended that Muhammed serve a sentence of fourteen years, but he will likely serve a substantially lighter sentence of thirty-four months pursuant to the terms of his pre-trial agreement with the government.
As stated in his plea deal, Muhammed will have served the additional 34 month of his sentence by December 2013. The United States has not taken action to ensure that his release will occur on schedule.
- Noor Charge Sheet (December 22, 2008) – PDF
- Ruling on Defense Motion for Post-Trial Hearing and Order (includes details of plea bargain) (May 1, 2013) – PDF
- Human Rights First coverage of the Noor Military Commissions trial