Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base: Guantanamo's newest war criminal helped train a wave of al Qaeda operatives now doing time at America's maximum-security prison in Colorado, a military prosecutor told a US tribunal on Wednesday.
Sudanese prisoner Noor Uthman Mohammed pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring with al Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism on Tuesday at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base.
A jury of nine US military officers was chosen on Wednesday to deliberate his sentence. One of the prosecutors, Navy Lieutenant Commander Arthur L Gaston III, said Noor deserved a lengthy one for his role as an arms instructor and logistics manager of the Khaldan paramilitary camp in Afghanistan.
"Terrorists are not born, they are made. And the defendant in this case, Noor Uthman Mohammed, has made hundreds of them," Gaston told the jurors in opening statements.
Noor, who is in his 40s and goes by his first name, admitted he studied at the al Qaeda-affiliated camp in 1996 and then taught there until it was shut down in 2000.
Gaston said the Khaldan alumni from that era include:
Millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam, who was caught at the US-Canada border in December 1999 with a trunk full of nitroglycerin and a plan to blow up the Los Angeles Airport on New Year's Eve.
Zacarias Moussaoui, a flight school student who pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking part in an al Qaeda conspiracy to crash hijacked planes into US buildings on September 11, 2001.
Mohamed Rashad Daoud al-Owhali, an al Qaeda operative who was supposed to be a suicide bomber in the 1998 attack on the US embassy in Kenya but fled before the bomb went off.
All three were convicted in civilian courts and are being held at the maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado -- Moussaoui and Owhali for life, and Ressam for 65 years to life.
'No bin Laden'
Defence attorney Howard Cabot portrayed Noor as a low-level functionary who taught religion and rudimentary weapons courses but never joined al Qaeda and had no real authority at Khaldan. He said Noor had accepted responsibility by pleading guilty and urged the jurors not to punish him for the acts of others.
"The world has seen unthinkable tragedy at the hands of al Qaeda but this hearing isn't about that. Those trials are for another day with the proper defendants," Cabot said. "... He's not Osama bin Laden."
First Published: Thursday, February 17, 2011, 11:25