Last updated: 18 June, 2014

Iraqi detainee at Guantanamo charged with war crimes

An Iraqi held at Guantanamo Bay’s top-secret camp 7 faces a possible life sentence after a US military judge charged him with five counts of war crimes on Wednesday.

The United States accuses Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, 53, of being a senior Al-Qaeda military commander alongside Osama bin Laden and of having sponsored deadly attacks against Americans and their allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The White House is facing a political backlash over the release from the detention facility at Guantanamo of five senior Taliban figures in exchange for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

At Wednesday’s hearing, which lasted less than an hour, Military Judge John Kirk Waits oversaw formal charges against the Iraqi, real name Nashwan Abd al-Razzaq Abd al-Baqi, including “attacking protected property, using treachery or perfidy… (and) conspiracy.”

He is not accused of committing murder, but of fomenting an assassination attempt in 2002 against Pakistan’s then-president Pervez Musharraf and of helping a suicide attacker who killed a number of Germans in Kabul in 2003.

Wearing a white tunic and with a long gray beard, the defendant — jailed among the “worst of the worst” at Guantanamo — delayed entering his plea.

The hearing was held in a nearly empty courtroom at Guantanamo’s special military tribunal and broadcast to the Fort Meade military base near Washington.

Asked about his defense team, Abd al-Hadi said only that he wanted a civilian lawyer “because of what is going on with Afghanistan and Iraq.”

According to the 16-page indictment, which was not read to the hearing, the Iraqi was a friend of bin Laden’s as well as the current head of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In March 2001, he allegedly helped the Taliban destroy the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, which were classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.