GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA — A military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay sentenced Noor Uthman Muhammed, a Sudanese native, to 14 years confinement on Friday but a plea agreement suspended the sentence and he will serve 34 months in exchange for his future cooperation in other investigations. Noor, as he requested to be called in an earlier hearing, will not get credit for the nine years he already served in Guantanamo.
Noor pleaded guilty to conspiracy and materially supporting terrorism on Tuesday. Under the charges, he admitted to training terrorists recruits at Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2000.
A nine-member commission heard arguments in the sentencing phase without knowledge of the plea arrangement and sentenced Noor to the maximum punishment after more than five hours of deliberation.
Capital News Service was among more than two-dozen news organizations permitted to observe Noor’s trial at the detention center in Cuba.
“Terrorists are not born, they are made,” said Lt. Cmdr. Arthur Gaston in the opening remarks for the prosecution. “And Noor Uthman has made hundreds of them.”
In his opening statement for the defense, lead counsel Howard Cabot, a civilian attorney from Phoenix countered: “I don’t have a catchy phrase to start my remarks.”
Though Noor made some mistakes, Cabot said, he has changed from the young man who left the Sudan for Pakistan 17 years ago.
The parties agreed to a stipulation of facts and offered no live testimony. The commission members- all military officers- saw statements of expected testimony and other documents including terrorism tactic manuals found in the safe house where Noor stayed just before his capture in 2002.
Defense counsel read an unsworn statement from Noor which detailed the alleged abuse he suffered in detention. “The worst time that I spent in Guantanamo Bay was while I was locked in Camp 5. I was there for two years in a cell by myself. I thought that I would lose my mind,” the statement read.
In closing arguments, the defense again offered photographs of the defendant as a young man and his family. They reassured commission members that Noor’s family and tribe would provide support if he is permitted to return to Sudan.
Several non-governmental organizations sent representatives to observe the trial.
Laura Pitter, counterterrorism advisor for Human Rights Watch, questioned the proceedings saying, “There’s a lot of pressure on these people to make a deal.”
Noor is the sixth individual to be convicted through the military commissions proceedings. Capt. John Murphy, chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, said he was pleased with the outcome calling it, “another step in the justice we are achieving.”
–By Capital News Service’s Laura E. Lee