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Appeals Court Overturns Conviction of al Qaeda Videographer

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the conviction of Yemeni prisoner Ali Hamza al Bahlul on the grounds that the charges under which he was convicted – providing material support for terrorism, soliciting murder, and conspiracy – were not recognized as war crimes at the time when he is supposed to have committed such acts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, had also thrown out conspiracy conviction against bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, on the same grounds in October, 2012.

The order can also lead to the withdrawal of conspiracy charges in the prosecution and pending trial of the five terrorists accused of planning the 9/11 attacks. A few days ago, the prosecutors in that trial had wanted to withdraw the conspiracy charges, but the Pentagon appointee in the matter had refused on the grounds of such a step being “premature” as the appeals court was yet to rule on the matter of Ali Hamzah al Bahlul.

Bahlul was a publicist for al Qaeda and prepared videos meant for recruiting propaganda of al-Queda and he is also known to have taped the wills of some of the hijackers who were involved in the attack on the World Trade Center and attempted attacking Pentagon on 9/11. Currently, he is in life imprisonment in Guantanamo.

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The charge of soliciting murder framed against Bahlul on the basis of a video encouraging the audience to attack U.S. targets, was also thrown out along with its accompanying conviction, because it had only one known legal precedent, and that also from an incident during the U.S. Civil War and involving only U.S. citizens.

Bryan Boyles, deputy chief defense counsel for the Guantanamo tribunals commented on the “solicitation of murder” charges and conviction – “The only basis on which the United States relied was their fanciful notion of U.S. common law of war, something which doesn’t actually exist.”

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