Technical flaws mar hearing in new Guantanamo court
GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba – Osama bin Laden’s suspected “media director” rejected U.S. terrorism court proceedings and renewed his allegiance to the al Qaeda leader on Wednesday in a hearing marred by technical flaws in a new Guantanamo courtroom.
With the lights momentarily out from a power failure in the windowless military courtroom set up to try Guantanamo prisoners, Al Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul declined to enter a plea at his arraignment on three terrorism-related charges.
He had earlier held up a handwritten “boycott” sign and declined to answer when asked whether he was rejecting his military attorney, though in a lengthy statement to the court he indicated he would not contest his charges.
“I am not going to say I’m not from al Qaeda,” Bahlul said. “We will continue in our jihad and nothing is going to stop us.”
The power failure and technical problems repeatedly disrupted what was the first hearing in the new courtroom, part of a $12 million complex built to handle a wave of trials expected to begin later this month at the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba.
“I think they should hire Mr. Bahlul to do a sound check next time,” Air Force Maj. David Frakt, a military lawyer assigned to represent Bahlul, said after the hearing. Prosecutors describe Bahlul as an audio-visual expert for al Qaeda.
The Yemeni prisoner was charged with conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder and providing material support for terrorism. He was accused of preparing a propaganda video glorifying the attack on the American destroyer Cole, preparing the videotaped will of September 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta, and operating computer and communications gear for bin Laden.
“I am renewing my allegiance to Sheikh Osama bin Laden,” said Bahlul, who wore a beard and loose green shirt as he sat at the defense table with two military guards behind him.