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Last US 'Enemy Combatant' Gets 8 Years

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    Ali al-Marri, The Last US Enemy Combatant, Receives Eight-Year Sentence 2.11.09
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2009
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      Ali al-Marri, The Last US "Enemy Combatant,"
      Receives Eight-Year Sentence
      2.11.09
      http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/11/02/ali-al-marri-the-last-us-enemy-combatant-receives-eight-year-sentence/


      So it's finally over. Ali al-Marri, a legal US resident from Qatar, who was held as an "enemy combatant" on the US mainland for five years and eight months without charge or trial, was finally sentenced in a federal court last Thursday. The prosecution was seeking a 15-year sentence, following al-Marri's guilty plea in April, when, as part of a plea bargain, he accepted that he had receiving training in al-Qaeda camps and had come to the United States on a mission for al-Qaeda on the day before the 9/11 attacks. However, in the Federal District Court in Peoria, Illinois, Judge Michael M. Mihm accepted a request from a-Marri's lawyers to take into account the nearly eight years he has already spent in US custody, including the five years and eight months that he spent in almost complete isolation as part of the Bush administration's aberrant "War on Terror" policies.

      I have been covering al-Marri's story in depth since June 2007, writing up the painful details of his torture and noting, with incredulity, the rulings of the courts who backed the Bush administration's policies, but it was not until President Obama issued a Presidential memorandum on his second day in office, stating that it was "in the interests of the United States that the executive branch undertake a prompt and thorough review of the factual and legal basis for al-Marri's continued detention, and identify and thoroughly evaluate alternative dispositions," that his long and unjust isolation came to an end, and he was reintroduced to the justice system that had been prepared to try him back in June 2003.

      It was at that point that President Bush declared him an "enemy combatant" and moved him to the US Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was held until February this year, and where, in his first 16 months of chronic isolation, he was subjected to the type of "enhanced interrogation techniques" that were prevalent at the time in Guantánamo (as I explained at length in an article last December, "The Last US Enemy Combatant: The Shocking Story of Ali al-Marri").

      Al-Marri's long years of extra-legal detention and torture — like those endured by two other Americans, Yasser Hamdi and Jose Padilla — are a black mark on America's recent history, and it has always amazed me that even Americans who were — and are — content to let foreigners suffer in Guantánamo and other "War on Terror" prisons did not feel a shiver of apprehension when fellow Americans were subjected to the same treatment on US soil. Putting aside the "terrorist" rhetoric, it should have been abundantly clear all along that this was the kind of tyranny that the Founding Fathers of the United States expressly set out to prevent.

      In court on Thursday, al-Marri's lawyers also urged the judge to reduce their client's sentence because "he no longer harbored a desire to attack the United States," and this is clear from a statement that al-Marri made in court (reproduced in full here). In what the New York Times described as "eight minutes of tearful testimony," al-Marri told the judge, "I am sorry for providing assistance for those who would do this country harm," and stated that he was "a changed person from the 2001 al-Marri," explaining:

      My religious beliefs — refined through years of thoughtful prayer and study during my incarceration — I realize prohibit me from engaging in violence toward any man. I forcefully reject any sort of violence for religious, political or other reasons. I say this to the court and I also state this to the representatives of my country who are present with us today. I know that the news people are here so I know my word will be received by those with whom I associated with in 2001. You have my word.

      Al-Marri also spoke about the punishment of missing his children growing up, but it was the words about how he has changed that, for me, rang out most noticeably from the proceedings, overshadowing the prosecution's claims that a psychologist claimed that al-Marri was "likely to engage in hostile acts towards the United States," and setting a seal on this long and deeply unpleasant story of how, in response to a terrorist attack, the Bush administration sank to the level of those it sought to defeat, in the most appropriate setting for this conclusion: a federal court.

      As President Obama prepares once more to revive the tainted Military Commissions at Guantánamo, I hope he has paid attention to the proceedings in Peoria on October 29, 2009, and has realized how hollow are the words of David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer who served in the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, who, as the Times described it, "questioned the Obama administration's decision to try Mr. Marri in criminal court instead of the military commissions favored by the administration of President George W. Bush."

      Stating that the sentence "underscores how `ill suited' conventional courts are for dealing with these issues," Mr. Rivkin proceeded to complain that criminal courts are "a crapshoot," with wildly varying sentences, and claimed that the Military Commissions "arrive at a better judgment, being comprised of warriors, as to what level of danger the person poses."

      With federal courts having a proven track record of dealing effectively with terrorist cases, and with just three results after eight years of the Military Commissions — each of which, in various ways, was regarded as compromised or inadequate — it is, frankly, difficult to perceive the logic in the world of "warriors" inhabited by Mr. Rivkin, and far more comprehensible to acknowledge the words of Jonathan Hafetz, a staff attorney at the ACLU. For many years, Mr. Hafetz led the challenge to al-Marri's detention as an "enemy combatant," and, as the Times noted, he called the sentence "a powerful reminder that America's civilian courts can deliver justice even in the most challenging circumstances."


      Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" (co-directed by Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

      As published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation, as "Ali al-Marri's Eight Year Sentence." Cross-posted on The Public Record.

      ===

      Ali al-Marri's Statement In Court
      October 30, 2009
      http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/11/02/ali-al-marris-statement-in-court-october-30-2009/


      Ali al-Marri, who was held as an "enemy combatant" on the US mainland for five years and eight months without charge or trial, was finally sentenced in a federal court last Thursday (as discussed in an article here), and he made the following statement in court, which I believe is worth reproducing in full:

      Ali al-Marri's statement

      In the name of Allah, all praise to Allah, end peace and prayers of Allah be upon his last messenger Muhammad, the messenger of mercy.
      Judge Mihm, peace be upon those who follow the guidance. I would like to start by saying that I have been waiting for this day for the last 2,880 days or the last 8 years.

      Judge Mihm, I am glad I have no blood on my hand and my assistance did not cause any bloodshed or lead to that either, nor would I have ever agreed to that and I will never agree to that in the future, but I am sorry for providing assistance for those who would do this country harm.

      Judge Mihm, all of my captors know that I speak my mind be it in religion, politics or personal issues. And you have heard [from] some of the American people who were responsible for detaining me that I was never violent or expressed a desire to harm them or any American people.

      My religious beliefs — refined through years of thoughtful prayer and study during my incarceration — I realize prohibit me from engaging in violence toward any man. I forcefully reject any sort of violence for religious, political or other reasons. I say this to the court and I also state this to the representatives of my country who are present with us today. I know that the news people are here so I know my word will be received by those with whom I associated with in 2001. You have my word.

      I had to make my position clear when I spoke to [US Attorney David] Risley and the FBI before entering my guilty plea. At that time I was not under threat or abuse and I spoke the truth about my activities.
      As you have seen pictures of my kids when I left them eight years ago and their recent pictures, missing all of those years, missing hearing the first words of my youngest child, missing the crying of not wanting to go to school, missing solving their problems with kids in the schools or in the neighborhood, missing their smile and laughter of buying them toys, or new things, missing not being there to take care, protect, and provide as fathers do. Missing all of that and all of the father-kids' activities is more than enough punishment. My 80-year-old mother, 5 kids, wife, 7 brothers, 4 sisters, more than 70 nephews and nieces and about 12 grandchildren (from my nephews and nieces) are being punished too of no fault of theirs, rather mine. And I said more than and about because it has been 8 years since I have been away from them.

      Even though I am a changed person from the 2001 al-Marri, I hope you would look with an eye of mercy on me today, but if not, Judge Mihm, have mercy on the 80-year-old who tells me her wish is to see me before she passes away. I have already lost my father during my incarceration, it will be unimaginable to lose both of my parents without being there for them or saying good bye. Judge Mihm, have mercy on the wife who chose to wait for her 8 years imprisoned husband rather than going on with her life even after I asked her to but [she] refused and chose to wait. Judge Mihm, have mercy on the suckling infants who have never seen me, they only know me by name.

      Judge Mihm, have mercy on my American family, my brother and sister Andy and Cheryl Savage who cried yesterday when they read this letter which was one of the hardest things because I am causing pain and hurt to my family whom I would give my life for but it is out of my hand to alleviate their pain, Judge Mihm, I am helpless to alleviate their pain, but you are not. Judge Mihm, have mercy on all of them by sending me home to my Arabian family accompanied by my American family by giving me a time served sentence.

      Before I finish my statement, I would like to give all praise and thanks to my Lord Allah, the Lord of all Lords for the support he gave me, and still giving and hope will continue. And I would like to thank my government who stood by me and my family during this ordeal.

      And I would like to thank all of the American people who dealt with me humanely and kindly during my incarceration, and Judge Mihm, as Allah and this court are my witness, I forgive all who harmed and caused me pain. And I would like to [add to] that my legal team (Larry, Mark, John, Lee, and the behind the scene heroes Jenny, Eileen, Alex, Bobby, and Heather) who I believe has done an excellent job. And remember what I said in our first meeting, my opinion of you will not be affected by the ruling of the court as it is not in your hands as long as you prepare well for the case. And it is beyond any doubt that you have done [so] with an utmost excellence.

      Last but not least, I would like to thank my American family where it is an honor to call them my brother and sister, Andy and Cheryl Savage, who are also part of my legal team. You have changed my perception of the American people's generosity, kindness and their culture fundamentally, to the better of course. I will never do anything to harm the American people. And I will still name my future son and daughter after you — as I promised before — if Allah blesses me with more children. I pray to Allah to assist me in showing you how much I appreciate your help, and I say show you my appreciation and not repay you, because I do not believe it is possible to repay you – monetary or otherwise — for what you have done for me, it is as trying to reach the stars with my hands. However I will pray — and always will — to the one who can, may Allah reward you as best as he rewarded any of his servants and make you, I and our loved ones to follow the right path that will lead us all to an eternity of life together in paradise in the afterlife. Amen.

      I would like to remind myself first, then my love on that if today's Judgment is favorable, it is from the generosity of all Generous and Merciful Allah, then the fairness of Judge Mihm, and the excellence of my legal team led by Mr. Andy Savage and Mr. Larry Lustberg, and if not, it is due only to my sins. I advise myself and my loved ones to accept Allah's Judgment and be patient. As Allah has said in the Quran, "It may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you, Allah knows but you do not know."

      Finally, glorified is your Lord, the Lord of Honor and power he is free from what they attribute unto him. And peace be on the messengers. And all praise and thanks are to Allah, lord of the mankind and all that exist. (37:180 -182)


      Note: This statement was originally published in the Peoria Star.

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