Saturday, February 1, 2014

The prosecution of Sufyian Barhoumi

Sufyian Barhoumi was charged in the first version of the military commissions. But those charges were dropped after the Supreme Court ruled that version of the military commissions was unconstitutional in Hamdan v Rumsfeld. In May 2008 Barhoumi was charged in a military commission with conspiracy and material support for terrorism. Those charges were dismissed in October 2008. In January 2009 he was once again charged with conspiracy and material support for terrorism.

Barhoumi almost secured a plea deal with a 20 year sentence. The plea deal was not reached due to a disagreement over whether Barhoumi should get credit for time served.

In October 2012 the DC appeals court overturned the conviction of Salim Hamdan for Material Support for terrorism because the law that gave military commissions jurisdiction over that crime was enacted in 2006, years after Hamdan was captured. In January 2013 the DC appeals court overturned the conviction of Ali Ah-Bahlul for material support for terrorism and conspiracy for the same reason.

As a result, the charges against Barhoumi were dismissed in January 2013. Barhoumi’s lawyer Justin Swick told Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin that, “for years your ticket out of Guantanamo was being found guilty, now there’s nothing to be found guilty of.”

In his article, Bravin explained that, “elsewhere in the American justice system, suspects go free unless prosecutors file charges. In Guantanamo, the opposite is true: Detainees who aren’t charged […] nevertheless face indefinite detention because the Pentagon has classified them as enemy combatants.”

Barhoumi was dismayed when he learned the charges against him were dropped. He told prosecutors he would plead guilty to any charge and ask for leniency in the sentencing phase of the trial.  

Barhoumi’s lawyers told Bravin that prosecutors won’t file charges against him unless he agrees to testify against other detainees. Barhoumi declined their offer, saying he will not help convict someone in a system he sees as illegitimate.

Barhoumi has been at Guantanamo for over 11 years. 

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