Ahmed al-Darbi

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Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi
Born (1975-01-09) January 9, 1975 (age 40)
Ta'if, Saudi Arabia
Detained at Guantanamo
Alternate name Abdul Aziz al-Janoubi
ISN 768
Charge(s) Five war crimes, including terrorism, attacking civilians and hazarding a vessel
Status Pleaded guilty[1]

Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi (Arabic: احمد محمد هزاع آل الدربي‎) is a citizen of Saudi Arabia who has been held in the United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camps, in Cuba since August 2002.[2] Al-Darbi was born on January 9, 1975, in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia. [3] He was arrested in Azerbaijan in June 2002, renditioned by United States forces to Afghanistan, where he was held at Bagram Air Force Base, and then transferred to Guantanamo in August that year.[4]

In February 2014 Al-Darbi pleaded guilty to terrorism charges before a military commission in relation to the October 2002 attack on the Limburg, a French oil tanker off Yemen. By the time of the attack, al-Darbi was already detained at Guantanamo but was later charged with being a principal in planning the attack. He is the sixth detainee to plead guilty to charges, in part to establish a sentence and date for leaving Guantanamo.[4]


The brother-in-law of Khalid al-Mihdhar, who participated in the 9/11 attacks in the United States, specifically that on the Pentagon, al-Darbi was captured in Azerbaijan and arrested in June 2002.[4]

He was renditioned by United States forces into Afghanistan.[5] There he was held in the Bagram Collection Point, while it was still under control of Alpha Company of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion. They were reported to have beat their captives, allegedly resulting in the deaths of two prisoners on December 4, 2001 and December 10, 2001.[6] Al-Darbi later identified Damien M. Corsetti, a soldier nicknamed "the King of Torture" by his fellow GIs, as one of his abusers.[6] In May 2006 Department of Defense spokesmen said that al-Darbi would not be allowed to testify at Corsetti's court martial for the deaths of detainees under his control.[7]

Al-Darbi was transported from Bagram to the detention center at Guantanamo Navy Base in August 2002.[4] On December 21, 2007 charges against Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi were referred to the convening authority for the Office of Military Commissions.[8][9][10]

Military Commission charges[edit]

On December 21, 2007 charges against Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi were referred to Susan Crawford, head of the military commissions at Guantanamo, who approved them to continue to trial.[8][9][10] He was charged, among other things, with the 2002 attack on the French oil tanker MV Limburg. Charges included the following:

"Conspiring with others, to attack civilians, to murder in violation of the law of war, to destroy property in violation of the law of war, to hazard a vessel and to commit terrorism, and Providing Material Support to Terrorism."[10]

He was alleged to have:[10]

  • trained at the Jihad Wahl training camp;
  • transferred funds to finance the plot to attack shipping;
  • purchased a vessel, registered in Sao Tome, to use in the attacks.

In April 2008 Al-Darbi announced that he refused to participate in the Military Commission, as he believed it lacked legitimacy. He dismissed his military defense lawyer Brian Broyles, who described the refusal a "reasoned decision".[5]

According to the Associated Press, at a hearing in December 2008 Al-Darbi had "held up a photo of President Barack Obama as a sign of hope."[11] According to the Associated Press, Al-Darbi wrote to his lawyer that Obama could: "earn back the legitimacy the United States has lost in the eyes of the world."[11]

Carol Rosenberg, writing in the Miami Herald, reported that Commission President James Pohl scheduled a hearing for May 27, 2009, to rule on how much of the evidence against Al-Darbi was coerced through torture.[12]

At a hearing on September 23, 2009, the Presiding Officer of the military commission to hear Al-Darbi's case agreed to a 60-day delay.[11] His lawyer Ramzi Kassem told reporters after the hearing that Al-Darbi had written a brief note, addressed to President Obama, that he had hoped to read aloud at the hearing. Kassem read the note aloud to reporters. The Associated Press quoted passages from the note.

On February 5, 2014, Carol Rosenberg, writing in the Miami Herald, reported that the Pentagon had decided to "go forward" with new charges against al-Darbi, prosecuting him for the bombing of a French oil tanker in 2002.[13] The Associated Press reported that the new charges had first been proposed in 2012.[14]

On July 30, 2015, Spencer Ackerman, reporting in The Guardian, described efforts by al-Darbi's prosecution team to acquire incriminating evidence. They tried to persuade another detainee, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, to agree to be interrogated about Al-Darbi.[15] In 2009 US District Court Judge James Robertson had issued a special ruling, that Mohamedou Ould Slahi could no longer be interrogated. Slahi had been subjected to months of well-documented torture. While held at Guantanamo, from 2005-2006, Slahi wrote a memoir. After ten years of legal struggle, Slahi's lawyers succeeded in getting the manuscript declassified after numerous redactions. Published in January 2015 as Guantanamo Diary, his memoir became an international bestseller.[15] He described suffering torture, including at Guantanamo.

After the publication of his memoir, camp authorities tried to cut off Slahi's contact with his lawyers.[15][16] In April 2015 his lawyers learned that Slahi had written to them months earlier to describe how camp authorities in October 2014 had seized all his personal belongings, including a non-networked computer, and all his privileged legal case documents. They also took his comfort items, such as soap, razors, toothbrush, toothpaste, and shampoo. Slahi told his lawyers that he was later visited by al-Darbi's prosecution team, who promised him that if he voluntarily agreed to allow them to interrogate him about Al-Darbi, they would arrange to have his belongings gradually returned to him.[15]

Official status reviews[edit]

Originally the Bush Presidency asserted that captives apprehended in the war on terror were not covered by the Geneva Conventions, and could be held indefinitely, without charge, and without an open and transparent review of the justifications for their detention.[17] In 2004 the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Rasul v. Bush, that Guantanamo captives were entitled to habeas corpus, that is, being informed of the allegations justifying their detention, and were entitled to try to refute them.

Office for the Administrative Review of Detained Enemy Combatants[edit]

Combatant Status Review Tribunals were held in a 3x5 meter trailer where the captive sat with his hands and feet shackled to a bolt in the floor.[18][19]

Following the Supreme Court's ruling the Department of Defense set up the Office for the Administrative Review of Detained Enemy Combatants.[17][20]

Scholars at the Brookings Institution, led by Benjamin Wittes, listed the captives still held in Guantanamo in December 2008, according to whether their detention was justified by certain common allegations:[21]

Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al Darbi was listed as one of the captives who had faced charges before a military commission.[21] He was among those whom "The military alleges ... are associated with both Al Qaeda and the Taliban."[21] He was alleged to have taken military or terrorist training in Afghanistan, and was said to be an "al Qaeda operative".[21] He was among "82 detainees [who] made no statement to CSRT or ARB tribunals or made statements that do not bear materially on the military’s allegations against them."[21]

Guantanamo assessment[edit]

On April 25, 2011, whistleblower organization WikiLeaks published formerly secret assessments drafted by Joint Task Force Guantanamo analysts.[22][23] Al Darbi's assessment was drafted on October 1, 2004.[24] It was eight pages long, and was signed by camp commandant Brigadier General Jay W. Hood. He recommended continued detention.

2009 Joint Review Task Force[edit]

When he assumed office in January 2009 President Barack Obama convened a six-agency task force to review the status of detainees at Guantanamo. It was part of his effort to move the proceedings and close the facility. In its report a year later, the task force characterized most detainees as low-level fighters and recommended 53 be repatriated quickly.[25][26][27] He promised that the use of torture would cease at the camp. He promised to institute a new review system. That new review system was composed of officials from six departments, where the OARDEC reviews were conducted entirely by the Department of Defense. When it reported back, a year later, the Joint Review Task Force classified some individuals as too dangerous to be transferred from Guantanamo, even though there was insufficient evidence to charge them with crimes. On April 9, 2013, that document was made public after a Freedom of Information Act request.[28] Ahmed al-Darbi was classified as of April 19, 2013 as among 71 individuals considered too dangerous to release but with insufficient evidence for charges.[28] Although Obama promised that such detainees would start to receive reviews from a Periodic Review Board, by May 2015 less than a quarter of men had received such a review.

Charges before Military Commission[edit]

Al-Darbi was charged in 2014 by a military commission, accused of helping plan the October 6, 2002 attack on the French oil tanker Limburg near the port of Al Mukalla, Yemen.[4] He pleaded guilty in February 2014 to the charges in the expectation of receiving a firm sentence and ultimately being released from Guantanamo, rather than continuing to be held in indefinite detention as he had been for the previous 12 years. At age 39, he was the sixth detainee to plead guilty.[4] Observers expected that he would have to serve at least three and a half more years at Guantánamo before being sentenced, to what is expected to be 9 to 15 years, and then he is likely to be transferred to Saudi Arabia to serve the remainder of that term.[4]

Al-Darbi admitted to having "bought boats, Global Positioning System devices and a hydraulic crane in the United Arab Emirates for use in the operation" and handling money "earmarked for it by Al Qaeda."[4] He admitted intending for civilians to be killed; one Bulgarian crew died and 12 sailors were injured.[4]

As part of his plea deal, Al-Darbi agreed to testify for prosecutors against a higher-profile Saudi Arabian citizen, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who is facing the death penalty for war crimes. Nashiri is accused of having helped "plan several maritime terrorist attacks," including the 2000 bombing of the United States destroyer Cole near Aden, and the attack by suicide bombers on the Limburg in October 2002.[4]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ OARDEC (2006-05-15). "List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  3. ^ "Ahmed Muhammed Haza al Darbi – The Guantánamo Docket". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Charles Savage, "Guantánamo Detainee Pleads Guilty in 2002 Attack on Tanker Off Yemen", New York Times, 20 February 2014, accessed 31 October 2015
  5. ^ a b Andy Worthington (2008-04-20). "The US military’s shameless propaganda over Guantánamo’s 9/11 trials". Archived from the original on 2009-089-23.  Check date values in: |archive-date= (help)
  6. ^ a b Trial under way for soldier in Afghan prisoner abuse case, Star Telegram, May 30, 2006
  7. ^ Soldier pleads not guilty in detainee harm, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 28, 2006
  8. ^ a b "Guantanamo Detainee Charged". United States Department of Defense. December 21, 2007. Archived from the original on 30 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  9. ^ a b "Guantanamo Bay detainee accused in terror plot". CNN. December 21, 2007. Archived from the original on 25 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  10. ^ a b c d Office of Military Commissions (January 2007). "MC Form 458 Jan 2007 - Charges in United States v. Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza Al Darbi" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. pp. pages 1–6. Retrieved 2007-12-23.  [dead link]
  11. ^ a b c Ben Fox (2009-09-23). "Guantanamo prisoner says he's lost hope in Obama". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2009-09-23. 
  12. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2009-05-10). "Judge won't delay May 27 war court session". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2009-05-12. 
  13. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2014-02-05). "Pentagon prosecuting Saudi at Guantánamo for 2002 French oil tanker bombing". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2014-02-06. The Pentagon has decided to go forward with a war crimes case against a Saudi man accused of planning the suicide bombing of an oil tanker off Yemen that took place two months after he was already imprisoned at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. 
  14. ^ "Kin of 9/11 Hijacker to Face Judge in Guantanamo". Miami: ABC News. 2014-02-06. Archived from the original on 2014-02-05. Retrieved 2014-02-05. The charges were filed in August 2012 subject to approval by a Pentagon legal official. The approval announced Wednesday means al-Darbi must be arraigned within 30 days at the U.S. base in Cuba. 
  15. ^ a b c d Spencer Ackerman (2015-07-29). "Guantánamo detainee says his 'comfort items' were taken to force interrogations". New York City: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2015-07-31. Retrieved 2015-07-30. Slahi alleged that the military “prosecuting team” pursuing confessed terrorist Ahmed al-Darbi “offered to help me on condition to ask the court to lift its order regarding my interrogation”. 
  16. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2015-06-10). "‘Guantánamo Diary’ author seeks parole hearing, return of belongings". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2015-07-26. Retrieved 2015-07-30. 
  17. ^ a b "U.S. military reviews 'enemy combatant' use". USA Today. 2007-10-11. Archived from the original on 2012-08-11. Critics called it an overdue acknowledgment that the so-called Combatant Status Review Tribunals are unfairly geared toward labeling detainees the enemy, even when they pose little danger. Simply redoing the tribunals won't fix the problem, they said, because the system still allows coerced evidence and denies detainees legal representation. 
  18. ^ Guantánamo Prisoners Getting Their Day, but Hardly in Court, New York Times, November 11, 2004 - mirror
  19. ^ Inside the Guantánamo Bay hearings: Barbarian "Justice" dispensed by KGB-style "military tribunals", Financial Times, December 11, 2004
  20. ^ "Q&A: What next for Guantanamo prisoners?". BBC News. 2002-01-21. Archived from the original on 23 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-24.  mirror
  21. ^ a b c d e Benjamin Wittes, Zaathira Wyne (2008-12-16). "The Current Detainee Population of Guantánamo: An Empirical Study" (PDF). The Brookings Institution. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-06-22. Retrieved 2010-02-16. 
  22. ^ Christopher Hope, Robert Winnett, Holly Watt, Heidi Blake (2011-04-27). "WikiLeaks: Guantanamo Bay terrorist secrets revealed -- Guantanamo Bay has been used to incarcerate dozens of terrorists who have admitted plotting terrifying attacks against the West – while imprisoning more than 150 totally innocent people, top-secret files disclose". The Telegraph (UK). Archived from the original on 2012-07-13. Retrieved 2012-07-13. The Daily Telegraph, along with other newspapers including The Washington Post, today exposes America’s own analysis of almost ten years of controversial interrogations on the world’s most dangerous terrorists. This newspaper has been shown thousands of pages of top-secret files obtained by the WikiLeaks website. 
  23. ^ "WikiLeaks: The Guantánamo files database". The Telegraph (UK). 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  24. ^ "Ahmad Muhammad Haza Al Darbi: Guantanamo Bay detainee file on Ahmad Muhammad Haza Al Darbi, US9SA-000768DP, passed to the Telegraph by Wikileaks". The Telegraph (UK). 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2015-07-30. 
  25. ^ Peter Finn (January 22, 2010). "Justice task force recommends about 50 Guantanamo detainees be held indefinitely". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-05-19. Retrieved July 21, 2010. 
  26. ^ Peter Finn (May 29, 2010). "Most Guantanamo detainees low-level fighters, task force report says". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2015-05-19. Retrieved July 21, 2010. 
  27. ^ Andy Worthington (June 11, 2010). "Does Obama Really Know or Care About Who Is at Guantánamo?". Archived from the original on 2010-06-16. Retrieved July 21, 2010. 
  28. ^ a b "71 Guantanamo Detainees Determined Eligible to Receive a Periodic Review Board as of April 19, 2013". Joint Review Task Force. 2013-04-09. Archived from the original on 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2015-05-18. 

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