February 9, 2008 By Carol Rosenberg
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- The Pentagon added two more captives to its war-crimes trial roster Friday, announcing charges against Osama bin Laden's alleged press secretary and his reputed bodyguard.
Both Ali Hamza Bahlul, 39, of Yemen and Ibraham al Qosi, 47, of Sudan had earlier been charged at the Bush administration's first effort to set up a war court, which ended in a U.S. Supreme Court upset in June 2006. Both had alleged abuse through their lawyers.
Now, under new congressionally approved military commissions, both have been charged separately with being al Qaeda co-conspirators. The Pentagon said it would seek life in prison.
The charges ''demonstrate our resolve to take them to trial and hold them accountable for their actions,'' said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon.
Bahlul is accused of serving as bin Laden's personal assistant and media secretary. His charge sheets allege that he made an al Qaeda promotional video about the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole off Aden, Yemen. The attack killed 17 American sailors. He also allegedly arranged for the videotaped ''martyr wills'' of Sept. 11 hijackers Mohammed Atta and Ziyad al Jarrah, to use as propaganda tools.
Bahlul was among the most colorful characters at the earlier war court, declaring his ''boycott, boycott, boycott'' of the process, refusing to cooperate with his U.S. Army-assigned attorney and insisting, contrary to the rules, that he could be his own lawyer.
New rules allow for self representation. A U.S. military lawyer would be assigned as a legal advisor because, as a captive of Camp Delta, a detainee can't see all of the documents in his case or travel the world in search of evidence to clear himself.
Qosi, born in Khartoum, Bin Laden's base until 1996, allegedly served as bin Laden's driver and armed guard from 1996 and in an al Qaeda mortar crew from 1998 to 2001. Earlier documents alleged that he ran bin Laden's kitchen at his ''Star of Jihad'' compound in Jalalabad.
This time, he is also accused of helping bin Laden and his family flee their Kandahar compound around the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, first to Kabul, then to Jalalabad and finally to the Tora Bora mountains.
In November 2004, civilian lawyers for Qosi filed an unlawful detention petition on his behalf in U.S. District Court in Washington, claiming he had been subject to abuse during interrogations at Guantánamo -- notably that he had been wrapped in an Israeli flag to humiliate him.
Prison camp officials denied his claim. Subsequently declassified FBI memos described the same tactic.
Bahlul's earlier Pentagon-appointed lawyer, Army Maj. Tom Fleener, has since left the service. While in uniform, though, he also told a military commission judge that there was reason to believe the Yemeni captive had been ''tortured'' in U.S. detention.
Friday's announcement raised to seven the number of captives, among 277, who have been charged.