FORT MEADE, Md. — After seven years in custody at Guantanamo Bay, a former top al-Qaida commander and confidant of Osama bin Laden was arraigned Wednesday by U.S. military authorities there, pushing his case into the troubled military tribunal system.
Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi faces non-capital murder charges for his suspected role in a series of high-profile terrorist attacks. If convicted, he could be imprisoned for life.
Prosecutors say Hadi spent almost two decades running al-Qaida training camps and orchestrating assaults in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They say he sat at bin Laden’s side when al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four U.S. passenger planes and killed almost 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.
Hadi appeared in court in a white turban and robe, stroking a long silvery beard and looking older than his 53 years.
He declined to enter a plea to the charges.
Speaking in Arabic, he complained that one of his attorneys was leaving the case and demanded a replacement. The judge, Navy Capt. J. Kirk Waits, granted his request.
The arraignment came a day after the Obama administration announced it would try a suspected ringleader of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in a civilian court in Washington, not in the special military courts set up to try terrorism suspects since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Hadi is considered a high-value detainee, and the military’s 14-page charge sheet alleges he played a role in 63 separate acts of terrorism as he rose through al-Qaida’s ranks. A man of many aliases, he oversaw suicide bombings, roadside attacks by improvised bombs, and other campaigns in which he swore “there shall be no survivors,” the document says.
Hadi is believed to have taken over al-Qaida’s Al Farouk training camp in eastern Afghanistan in 1996. He became bin Laden’s liaison to the Afghan Taliban as they rose to power, and later was assigned by bin Laden to run al-Qaida’s insurgency in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the charge sheet says.
Prosecutors say Hadi met repeatedly with bin Laden in the early summer of 2001 to discuss the coming assaults on New York and the Pentagon.
Bin Laden gave him $20,000 “to purchase weapons and ammunition” that al-Qaida knew it would need once the United States retaliated, the charges say. In the spring of 2002, he received an additional $100,000 from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, to further fund al-Qaida’s operations, the document alleges.
Hadi “directed, organized, funded, supplied, and oversaw al-Qaida’s operations against U.S. forces, coalition forces, and civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan” from 2002 to 2004, the charges say.
His mission was “to kill Americans and their allies wherever found, to kill everyone encountered on the battlefield and to take no prisoners,” the document says.
Hadi is the 12th prisoner at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be charged under the Obama administration.
Mohammed is among six detainees still awaiting trial. Five other defendants have pleaded guilty.
During the George W. Bush years, military prosecutors charged 27 Guantanamo prisoners and convicted three. One case has been overturned. The others are under appeal.
Hadi’s arraignment, held at Guantanamo Bay, was simulcast for reporters at Fort Meade.