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Plea Buries Hazara Massacre Charges Against Al Qaeda Terrorist

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi has been a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay since 2007. Prosecutors accuse him of having been Osama bin Laden’s liaison to the Taliban. Credit: NY Times

Commander of Afghan Insurgency Pleads Guilty at Guantánamo Bay

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi agreed that his subordinates committed war crimes in attacks in 2003 and 2004 on allied forces that invaded Afghanistan.

[Genocide Watch comment: Mr. Hadi's participation in genocidal massacres of 8000 Hazaras in 1998 was ignored in his plea bargain, as well as his involvement in the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, and his involvement in the murders of troops from at least four countries.]

The New York Times

June 13, 2022

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — An Iraqi prisoner who commanded al Qaeda terrorists during the U.S. war in Afghanistan pleaded guilty on Monday to war crimes charges related to lethal attacks on allied soldiers in 2003 and 2004, in a deal that could hand him off to the custody of another country by 2024.

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, now in his 60s, spent much of the daylong hearing responding, “Yes, your honor,” to the questions of the military judge, Lt. Col. Mark F. Rosenow, about a secret account of his activities in Afghanistan as a co-conspirator with Osama bin Laden and other top Qaeda leaders between 1996 and 2003. The account included more than 100 items.

He could be sentenced to 10 years in prison, much of it to be served in the custody of another country, under a plea agreement that has yet to be made public.

He pleaded guilty to the war crimes of attacking protected property — a U.S. military medevac helicopter that insurgents who answered to him failed to shoot down in Afghanistan in 2003 — and of treachery and conspiracy connected to insurgent bombings that killed at least three allied troops, one each from Canada, Britain and Germany.

Those allied soldiers were killed by car bombs or suicide bombers posing as civilians, the judge said. If Mr. Hadi had known in advance about the plans, he had a duty to stop them. If he had possessed no prior knowledge, the judge said, Mr. Hadi had a duty to punish the perpetrators.

The plea deal represented a drastic scaling back of the government’s charges against him. None of the crimes to which he pleaded guilty made him directly or indirectly responsible for some of the most serious allegations made by military prosecutors when they charged him in 2014.

[Genocide Watch comment: Mr. Hadi was also directly involved in the genocide of over 8000 Hazaras in Mazar I Sharif in 1998. Hazara eyewitnesses were present at his trial to prove those charges against him, but they never got to testify because of the plea bargain. To this day no one has ever been tried for the genocidal massacres in Mazar I Sharif and Bamiyan. The voices of the Hazaras have been silenced.]

Gone from his case were allegations that he was part of the sweeping al Qaeda conspiracy to rid the Arabian Peninsula of non-Muslims. Nor was there any claim of responsibility or knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, which prompted the creation of the Guantánamo prison and the war court.

Erased were the charges that held him responsible for the destruction by the Taliban of monumental Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in March 2001.

[Genocide Watch comment: Hazara eyewitnesses were present at the trial who were in Bamiyan during the destruction of the Buddhas and the slaughter of hundreds of Hazaras by the Taliban and al Qaeda. They could have linked Mr. Hadi to that massacre. But they were not allowed to testify because of the plea bargain.]

Nor did the charges tie him to the 2003 assassination by insurgents of a French worker for the United Nations relief agency.

[Genocide Watch comment: Even though there was evidence tying Mr. Hadi to that murder as well, it was never heard due to the plea bargain.]

Mr. Hadi, who says his real name is Nashwan al-Tamir, was captured in Turkey in 2006 and brought to Guantánamo Bay the next year. Efforts to bring him to trial have been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic and by his health. He has a degenerative spinal disease that has left him paralyzed at times.

Plea talks in the case started this year under a new Biden-era push to close the Guantánamo prison, which has an aging detainee population and limited capacity to provide health care without airlifting in specialists and equipment.

Under Mr. Hadi’s plea agreement, which was reached in May and refined over the weekend, a military jury will hear the evidence against him and be asked to choose within a range of 25 to 30 years of confinement, starting with his plea.

Once that is done, according to the deal, the senior Pentagon official responsible for overseeing the war court will reduce it to 10 years.

The agreement postpones sentencing for two years, providing time his lawyers hope will be sufficient to find a sympathetic nation to receive him and provide him with lifelong medical care. His spinal disease has required five operations in less than a year at Guantánamo and has left him relying on a wheelchair and walker — and in need of more surgery to address his periodic paralysis.

“He pleaded guilty for his role as a frontline commander in Afghanistan,” said his lawyer, Susan Hensler, who is compensated by the Pentagon. “He has been in custody for 16 years, including the six months he spent in a C.I.A. black site. We hope the United States makes good on its promise to transfer him as soon as possible for the medical care he desperately needs.”

[Comment by Genocide Watch: This plea bargain again silenced the voices of the Hazaras whom Ms. Rosenberg refuses to mention by name in any of her reports. The plea bargain was designed to facilitate the closure of Guantanamo.]

Carol Rosenberg has been covering the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, including detention operations and military commissions, since the first prisoners were brought there from Afghanistan in January 2002. She worked as a metro, national and foreign correspondent with a focus on coverage of conflict in the Middle East for The Miami Herald from 1990 to 2019. @carolrosenbergFacebook

[Genocide Watch comment: Ms. Rosenberg is the New York Times reporter in residence in Guantanamo. She has campaigned for closure of the prison since it was opened.]

A version of this article appears in print on June 15, 2022, Section A, Page 14 of the New York edition with the headline: Iraqi Prisoner Held by U.S. Pleads Guilty

Copyright 2022 The New York Times Company


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