‘High-value’ prisoner from U.S. pleads guilty

Agrees to co­op­er­ate against other Guan­tanamo de­tainees

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY BEN FOX

GUAN­TANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, CUBA | A for­mer Mary­land res­i­dent pleaded guilty Wed­nes­day to help­ing al Qaeda plot at­tacks from his na­tive Pak­istan, reach­ing a plea deal with the U.S. gov­ern­ment that lim­its his sen­tence but that his at­tor­neys say could put him and his fam­ily in jeop­ardy.

An at­tor­ney en­tered the plea on be­half of Ma­jid Khan at the U.S. base in Cuba. Asked by the judge if he un­der­stood the plea, Khan an­swered in English, “Yes, sir.”

The plea deal, the first reached by one of the mil­i­tary’s “high-value” de­tainees at Guan­tanamo, says Khan, 32, could serve less than 19 years in prison as long as he pro­vides “full and truth­ful co­op­er­a­tion,” to U.S. au­thor­i­ties build­ing cases against other pris­on­ers, said Army Col. James Pohl, the mil­i­tary judge.

Khan’s at­tor­neys wanted de­tails of the plea deal kept con­fi­den­tial. Wells Dixon, one of his civil­ian at­tor­neys, said Khan feared for the safety of fam­ily mem­bers in the United States and abroad.

“There is a spe­cific, his­tor­i­cal ba­sis for the con­cern,” Mr. Dixon told the judge.

Col. Pohl re­jected the re­quest, say­ing the fact that he had agreed to co­op­er­ate was al­ready in the public do­main.

Khan had faced up to life in prison if con­victed on all charges, which in­clude con­spir­acy, mur­der and spy­ing.

Doc­u­ments re­leased be­fore Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing had said the pre­trial agree­ment capped his sen­tence at 25 years.

The judge said that his sen­tenc­ing would be de­layed for four years, giv­ing him time to pro­vide tes­ti­mony against other de­tainees, and that the Pen­tagon le­gal of­fi­cial who over­sees the tri­bunals would not ap­prove a to­tal sen­tence that ex­ceeds 19 years.

Khan would get credit for time served un­til his sen­tenc­ing but not for the nine years he al­ready has been in cus­tody. The judge told him that there is noth­ing in the agree­ment that specif­i­cally pre­vents the U.S. from con­tin­u­ing to de­tain him af­ter he com­pletes his sen­tence, though there are no in­di­ca­tions that would hap­pen.

“I am mak­ing a leap of faith here, sir,” Khan told the judge in re­sponse. “That’s all I can do.”

Khan is the sev­enth Guan­tanamo prisoner to be con­victed of war crimes, and he is con­sid­ered the most sig­nif­i­cant.

He is the first prisoner who was held in clan­des­tine CIA cus­tody over­seas — where pris­on­ers en­dured harsh treat­ment that lawyers and hu­man rights groups have la­beled tor­ture.

Wed­nes­day was the first time Khan has been seen in public since his cap­ture in March 2003.

Prose­cu­tors said Khan plot­ted with the self-pro­claimed mas­ter­mind of the Sept. 11 at­tacks, Khalid Sheikh Mo­hammed, to blow up fuel tanks in the U.S., to as­sas­si­nate for­mer Pak­istani Pres­i­dent Gen. Pervez Mushar­raf and to pro­vide other as­sis­tance to al Qaeda.

Khan moved to the U.S. with his fam­ily in 1996 and was granted po­lit­i­cal asy­lum. He grad­u­ated from Owings Mills High School in sub­ur­ban Bal­ti­more and worked at sev­eral of­fice jobs as well as at his fam­ily’s gas sta­tion.

Mil­i­tary prose­cu­tors say he trav­eled in 2002 to Pak­istan, where he was in­tro­duced to Mo­hammed as some­one who could help al Qaeda be­cause of his flu­ent English and fa­mil­iar­ity with the U.S.

Prose­cu­tors say Khan later trav­eled with his wife, Rabia, to Bangkok, where he de­liv­ered $50,000 to the South­east Asian ter­ror group Je­maah Is­lamiyah, an al Qaeda af­fil­i­ate, to help fund the Aug. 5, 2003, sui­cide bomb­ing of the J.W. Mar­riott ho­tel in Jakarta, In­done­sia. The at­tack killed 11 peo­ple and wounded at least 81 more.

The U.S. mil­i­tary holds 171 pris­on­ers at Guan­tanamo, and of­fi­cials have said about 35 could face war crimes charges.

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