Khan asks for for­give­ness

Guan­tanamo de­tainee who lived in Balto. Co. says he regrets al-Qaida ter­ror role

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Ian Dun­can ian.dun­can@balt­

Ma­jid Khan, ap­pear­ing be­fore a mil­i­tary com­mis­sion for the first time in more than four years, apol­o­gized Wed­nes­day to the fam­i­lies of vic­tims of his crimes, calling his ac­tions as an al-Qaida op­er­a­tive “grotesque and per­ni­cious.”

The for­mer Bal­ti­more County man, a na­tive of Pak­istan, spoke in im­per­fect English.

“If it’s any con­so­la­tion I would like to sin­cerely apol­o­gize to the fam­ily that I’ve ei­ther men­tally or phys­i­cally caused pain,” he told Col. Tara Os­born, the of­fi­cer who presided over the hear­ing. “I don’t get to come to court as of­ten as pos­si­ble. ... I’m us­ing this op­por­tu­nity to show some kind of com­punc­tion or re­gret.”

Video footage of the hear­ing was played live at Fort Meade.

Khan, 36, has ad­mit­ted to plot­ting with the self-pro­claimed 9/11 mas­ter­mind Khalid Sheikh Mo­hammed, try­ing to as­sas­si­nate Pak­istani Pres­i­dent Pervez Mushar­raf and fer­ry­ing money to Thai­land that was used in the 2003 ho­tel bomb­ing in Jakarta that killed 11 peo­ple and wounded dozens more.

Af­ter first pro­claim­ing his in­no­cence, Khan pleaded guilty in 2012 to mur­der, con­spir­acy, spy­ing and other of­fenses, and agreed to co­op­er­ate with mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tors in cases against his for­mer al-Qaida com­rades.

His sen­tenc­ing was de­layed to al­low au­thor­i­ties to as­sess the value of his co­op­er­a­tion. Un­der the plea agree­ment, he is to serve no more than 19 years in prison.

“Ac­tions speak louder than words,” Khan told Os­born on Wed­nes­day. “That’s what I’m try­ing to show by my co­op­er­a­tion.”

Khan came to the United States with his fam­ily in the 1990s. He grad­u­ated from Owings Mills High School in 1999 and landed an in­for­ma­tion-tech­nol­ogy job in North­ern Vir­ginia.

He was at work on Sept. 11, 2001, when the hi­jacked Amer­i­can Air­lines Flight 77 plowed into the Pen­tagon. From his of­fice win­dow, he watched the smoke rise over Wash­ing­ton.

Within months, he trav­eled to Pak­istan, os­ten­si­bly for an ar­ranged mar­riage. There he would con­nect with Khalid Sheikh Mo­hammed.

He has ac­knowl­edged plot­ting to as­sas­si­nate Mushar­raf in Pak­istan — he wore what he be­lieved to be a sui­cide vest to a mosque at which the pres­i­dent was sup­posed to ap­pear but didn’t — and to blow up gas sta­tions in the United States.

Khan was taken into cus­tody by Pak­istani se­cu­rity forces in 2003 and even­tu­ally turned over to the CIA. The CIA kept him in se­cret pris­ons, where he was sub­jected to sleep de­pri­va­tion and rec­tal feed­ing, kept naked and sub­merged in ice wa­ter.

He was trans­ferred to Guan­tanamo Bay in 2006.

Khan’s com­ments near the end of the hear­ing Wed­nes­day were un­ex­pected.

“I ask Al­lah to for­give me,” he said. “Maybe Al­lah can put for­give­ness for me in their heart.”

He had ap­peared be­fore the com­mis­sion to with­draw a guilty plea to the charge of Ma­jid Khan pro­vid­ing ma­te­rial sup­port to ter­ror­ists. A fed­eral ap­peals court has ruled that the com­mis­sion does not have ju­ris­dic­tion to hear the charge.

Khan also agreed to wait an­other three years be­fore be­ing sen­tenced while he con­tin­ues to work with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

He told Os­born he was com­fort­able with the de­lay: “I think it will prob­a­bly help me.”

The changes do not af­fect the max­i­mum sen­tence to which Khan has agreed or the facts to which he has ad­mit­ted.

Fed­eral ap­peals courts are weigh­ing what ju­ris­dic­tion the mil­i­tary com­mis­sions have over other charges. Khan asked Os­born about the pos­si­bil­ity that other charges would be dropped.

“There’s also a charge of con­spir­acy,” he said. “If that gets dropped by the court of ap­peals ... How’s that go­ing to work? We’re go­ing through the same process with the ex­act same method, right?”

Os­born said the ques­tion was rel­e­vant to the hear­ing. Then Khan an­swered it him­self.

“There’s a good chance that if that hap­pens we’d do the same pro­ce­dure,” he said.

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