FORT MEADE, Md. (Transatlantic Today) — An Iraqi prisoner who had been detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention center for nearly 15 years entered a guilty plea on war crimes charges on Monday for his involvement in al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan on US and allied forces, as well as civilians.
The pleas of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi before a military court at the US base in Cuba constitute a legal landmark, assisting attempts to settle the long-stalled Guantanamo trials and unwind operations at the detention site.
Hadi al-Iraqi’s sentencing has been stalled for years due to some of the similar logistical and legal issues that have stymied other Guantanamo prosecutions, as well as his worsening spinal condition, which has left him partially paralysed.
Hadi al-Iraqi, who claims his real name is Nashwan al-Tamir and is around 60 years old, was brought before the commission in 2014 at Guantanamo Bay. The commission was established to prosecute inmates for war crimes in a high security tribunal that incorporates civilian and military law.
As an al-Qaeda leader early in the fight in Afghanistan that effectively concluded with the US departure in August, he pled guilty to 4 of the 5 allegations against him, involving conspiracy and various violations of the laws of war.
According to ABC NEWS, he was facing the possibility of life in jail, but under the conditions of his plea agreement, he would be transported out of Guantanamo and transferred to a third country after undergoing additional medical care at the facility.
Hadi al-Iraqi, according to the US, has been a prominent member in al-Qaida since the mid-1990s, overseeing a training facility for militants in Afghanistan in the years leading up to the terrorist strikes on Sept. 11, 2001.
According to military prosecution files, the detainee also helped the Taliban destroy the 6th-century sandstone Buddha statues carved into a rock in Bamiyan province in March 2001. According to their view of Islam, the famous monuments are objectionable.
Hadi al-Iraqi planned deadly al-Qaida strikes against American and coalition military as well as civilians in Afghanistan and adjacent Pakistan after the US invasion in reaction to the attacks.
In a prolonged hearing to ascertain if he was voluntarily entering into a plea deal with the government, the detainee, who has a long beard and wears a traditional skullcap, politely answered “yes, your honor” or “yes sir” when asked if he understood the charges by the military judge, Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Rosenow. The Associated Press was able to see the proceedings from Fort Meade, Maryland, via a video stream.
This is the first plea deal in a Guantanamo trial since President Joe Biden’s election, and his office has been seeking to steadily decrease the number of detainees at Guantanamo and get closer to shutting it.
Plea deals are critical to the closing campaign because the courts have dragged on for years due to legal objections and the logistical obstacles of holding trials at the remote outpost on Cuba’s southeastern border.
At Guantanamo, 37 men are still being held, with 10 of them facing ongoing military court trials. The most visible is the death penalty case against 5 inmates accused of aiding and abetting the 9/11 attacks, which is currently through plea negotiations.