U.S. Military Jury Sentences
al-Qaida Aide to Life in Prison

(VOA) A military jury at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has sentenced an al-Qaida operative to life in prison for conspiracy, solicitation for murder, and material support for terrorism.

Authorities announced Ali Hamza al-Bahlul’s sentence on Monday, just hours after they announced that he was convicted on Friday. Bahlul can appeal his sentence if he chooses to do so.

Bahlul was convicted of conspiring with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and other high-ranking members of the terrorist group. Prosecutors say Bahlul created an al-Qaida recruitment video that glorifies an attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in 2000. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in that attack.

Bahlul is also accused of assisting Mohammad Atta, one of the heads of the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States that killed nearly three thousand people.

Last week, Bahlul won the right to remain silent at his military tribunal after he said he did not recognize the tribunal’s legitimacy.

A military judge, Air Force Col. Ronald Gregory, ruled that the burden to prove guilt rested on the prosecution, allowing Bahlul and his court-appointed attorney to avoid mounting a defense.

Bahlul is the second Guantanamo Bay detainee to be convicted in a war crimes trial under the special military commissions system.

A jury convicted the first, former Osama bin Laden driver Salim Hamdan, in August on a charge of providing material support to terrorism. The jury sentenced Hamdan to five-and-a-half years in prison.