By CHARMAINE NORONHA
Lawyers for a former Guantanamo Bay detainee said a U.S. court decision in an unrelated case Friday helps their client’s appeal of his convictions by a military commission.
A U.S appeals court set aside the conviction of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who allegedly produced an al-Qaida recruiting video and served as Osama bin Laden’s personal assistant and public relations secretary.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the conspiracy case against al-Bahlul was legally flawed because conspiracy is not a war crime. The military commission only had jurisdiction to try internationally recognized war crimes, the court said.
Dennis Edney, the lawyer for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, said the ruling confirms his belief that Khadr’s convictions were not recognized war crimes and his appeal should now be allowed.
“We have long argued Omar’s convictions were not recognized law of war crimes and filed an appeal in Washington saying so,” Edney told The Associated Press. “This decision confirms our belief that Omar Khadr served 12 years in the hellhole of Guantanamo Bay for something that was not a crime.”
Khadr pleaded guilty before the U.S. military commission in 2010 to five offenses, including killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15.
The commission’s appeals court has refused to hear his appeal case pending the outcome of the al-Bahlul challenge.
“By implication, (Friday’s ruling) pretty much seals the deal with respect to Omar’s appeal,” said Nate Whitling, Khadr’s co-counsel.
Whitling said the Court of Military Commission Review should now get on with hearing Khadr’s challenge.
Khadr, now 28, returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out his eight-year sentence. He was released on bail last month into Edney’s custody pending the outcome of his appeal.
The Canadian government is still fighting to put him back behind bars and is appealing the bail decision.
The U.S. government could still try to appeal the al-Bahlul decision to the Supreme Court.