Defense Department: Charges filed against al Qaeda suspect

Story highlights

  • Majid Khan is suspected of helping al Qaeda plan attacks in the United States and abroad
  • The Pakistani national lived in Baltimore
  • "Majid is doing well considering these challenging circumstances," his lawyers say
Military commission charges have been sworn against Majid Shoukat Khan, a Pakistani national who lived in the United States from 1996 to early 2002 who is suspected of helping al Qaeda plan attacks in the United States and elsewhere, the Defense Department said Tuesday.
He is charged with conspiracy, murder and attempted murder in violation of the law of war, providing material support for terrorism, and spying. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The charges allege that Khan, who is being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, joined with members of the terrorist group in Pakistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Khan is accused of having:
--used a fraudulently obtained travel document to travel from Baltimore, to Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002;
--conspired with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up underground storage tanks at U.S. gas stations;
--recorded a "martyr video," then donned an explosive vest and waited in a mosque where Pervez Musharraf was expected, but the plan failed when the Pakistani president did not show up;
--traveled in March 2002 from Karachi to Baltimore, where he performed tasks for al Qaeda and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, including buying a laptop computer for al Qaeda and contacting a military recruiter to obtain materials regarding the United States military, which he intended to give to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed;
--worked for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda members once he returned to Pakistan in August 2002;
--traveled with his wife in December 2002 to Bangkok, Thailand, where he gave $50,000 in al Qaeda funds to a Southeast Asia-based al Qaeda affiliate, which gave the money to Jemaah Islamiyah to fund the August 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. That incident killed 11 people and wounded at least 181 others.
Chief Prosecutor Mark Martins forwarded the charges to Convening Authority Bruce MacDonald with a recommendation that the charges be referred to military commission for trial, according to the Defense Department.
Martins on Tuesday assigned Courtney Sullivan of the Justice Department as trial counsel and Army Lt. Col. Michael Hosang and Navy Lt. Nathaniel Gross as assistant trial counsel.
MacDonald will determine whether to refer some, all, or none of the charges to trial by military commission. If the case is referred to trial, MacDonald will designate the commission panel members who would function as jurors. The chief trial judge of the Military Commissions Trial Judiciary would also detail a military judge to the case.
The alleged gas-station plot was revealed in 2003 to news media by sources familiar with the questioning of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
In a statement, the Center for Constitutional Rights said Khan was with two of his civilian lawyers, Wells Dixon of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and Katya Jestin of the Chicago-based law firm of Jenner & Block, when he was served Monday with the military commission charges.
"We are reviewing the charges, and will represent Majid throughout this process," the statement said. "Majid is doing well considering these challenging circumstances."
Khan, who attended high school in Baltimore, was held for more than three years at the secret CIA prisons and "subjected to an aggressive CIA detention and interrogation program notable for its elaborate planning and ruthless application of torture," his lawyers have said, according to court documents.
Details of Khan's torture claims were redacted in the filing but Khan's attorneys have said he suffers "severe physical and psychological trauma from which he is unlikely ever to recover fully" as a result of his ordeal.
Asked about Khan's claims, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano has told CNN, "CIA's terrorist interrogation effort has always been small, carefully run, lawful and highly productive. Fewer than 100 hardened terrorists have gone through the program since it began in 2002, and of those, less than a third required any special methods of questioning. The United States does not conduct or condone torture."
Khan's attorneys claim he was taken into custody in 2003 and "forcibly disappeared" before his transfer to Guantanamo.
He filed a legal challenge to his detention in September 2006, the court documents said, and appeared before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal in April 2007. He was found to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant, but filed a challenge to that August 14, 2007. He was not allowed to meet with an attorney, however, until October, the documents said.
The Bush administration contended that, in addition to researching how to blow up gas stations, Khan researched how to poison reservoirs in the United States.