Guantanamo War Court Shows MartyrdomVideo
February 1, 2009
By Carol Rosenberg, Miami Herald
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Osama bin Laden’s media secretary joined military jurors Wednesday watching his handiwork — a crude two-hour recruiting video that spliced gory Muslim suffering with exhortations to holy war offered to prove the filmmaker committed war crimes.
Ali Hamza al Bahlul, about 40, was rapt during the screening of his film in the third day of his military commission trial. Pentagon prosecutors consider it a key al Qaeda tool of incitement created after the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole.
Unlike his stony indifference in the earlier portions of his trial, the slight Yemeni in a tan prison camp uniform sometimes smiled and nodded during the graphic, film, The Destruction of the American Destroyer USS Cole.
The Pentagon alleges Bahlul committed three war crimes during his two-year tenure at al Qaeda’s public relations shop: Conspiracy, solicitation to murder and providing material support for terror. Conviction can carry a maximum of life in prison.
“It’s a powerful video if you have a lack of historical knowledge,” said former FBI agent Ali Soufan, to whom Bahlul boasted during a 2002 interrogation that he produced the film.
Soufan, an Arab American, summed up its message as this: “Go to Afghanistan. Join al Qaeda. Join martyrdom operations. Hate life. Love death.”
During their talks, said Soufan, a fluent Arabic speaker, Bahlul explained that he joined the jihad, or holy war, because the U.S. and Jews had troops on holy Muslim soil, and U.S. policy had led to the deaths of Muslim women and children.
“He does not consider anyone protected persons, or civilians,” he said. “Even if Muslims are in charge in America. He makes no distinction whatsoever. As long as you are American, as long as you pay taxes, you are a target.”
Bahlul was captured in Afghanistan early in the U.S. invasion following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and was among captives taken to Guantanamo in January 2002.
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