GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (CN) – The 11 aliases listed on the charge sheet for an accused al-Qaida commander raise questions about whether the aliases actually refer to the same person, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi’s defense team says.
Attorneys raised the issue publicly for the first time last week during a pretrial hearing before Navy Capt. Judge J.K. Waits, after announcing that they would call him by his real name, Nashwan al-Tamir, moving forward.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, a day after the hearing, Brent Rushforth of the firm McKool Smith said al-Tamir is “not the guy they think he is.”
“He’s also not al-Qaida, and they won’t be able to prove it,” Rushforth added.
The Iraqi whom the government knows as Al-Hadi is the only high-value detainee not facing the death penalty.
Though charged with war crimes, al-Hadi’s case is not widely known outside of his requests not to be touched by female guards.
The U.S. has accused al-Hadi of assaulting U.S. convoys, using roadside bombs that killed U.S. and allied troops, and leading forces that launched attacks on medical evacuation helicopters.
A charge sheet also accuses him of conspiring with the alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, and accuses al-Hadi of helping some Taliban destroy Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley.
The defense team does not have any documentation – a birth certificate or a passport – that can prove their client’s identity. That could be attributed to the difficulty of obtaining identity documents in both Iraq and Afghanistan after the U.S. invasions, Army Maj. Wendall Hall said in an interview.
The only pictures of al-Hadi that exist in the public domain are a court sketch and a blurry image included on a U.S. State Department wanted poster, which has been removed from the internet. Defense attorneys for the detainee provided a screenshot of the poster, which they say is not classified.
It says that al-Hadi stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 220 pounds. Hall, who is 5-foot-7, says his client is several inches shorter than he is and weighs less than 220, though he could not provide his client’s exact measurements.
The defense team does not know how old their client is, and they have not asked him how old he thinks he is, though he is estimated to be in his mid-50s. They have not met al-Hadi’s wife or his four children, though they did say he is a Sunni Muslim from Mosul, Iraq.
Al-Hadi’s final charge sheet appendix lists the following aliases for him, with variants of each alias in parentheses: “Hadi al-Iraqi (Abd al-Hadi, Abdul Hadi, al-Iraqi, Hadi); Nashwan Abd al-Razzaq Abd al-Baqi (Nashwan, al-Razzaq, al-Baqi); Abdullah Khan; Abu ‘Abdallah; Abd al-Muhayman al-Iraqi (Abdul Muhaymin); Abd al-Hadi al-Ansari; Abu Nadia; AhmadGazi (Ghazi); Khutaiba al Ansari (Khotaiba).
The charge sheet does not list Nashwan al-Tamir as an alias, though it does list Nashwan as a first name.
“We have many of those aliases listed in the appendix attached to the alleged acts, which begs the question, who is the person or persons who actually engaged in these acts?” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Keith B. Lofland said in an interview.
Hall says the diverse names certainly complicate al-Hadi’s prosecution. “There are so many phrases, titles and names in there, there’s absolutely no way to attach all these names and titles to this one defendant,” Hall said in an interview. “It is absolutely a point of contention.”
Wendall hinted that Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi is more of a descriptive title than a name. The defense team said U.S. military investigators have not necessarily considered the Arabic cultural naming system.
In a meeting with reporters after court last week, Rushforth said his client wants to go home. Though the defense team could not specify where that is, they did say “home” is where his wife and children are. Rushforth said he believes his client will get to go home.
“We think the government can’t prove its case,” he said.
Rushforth said the detainee’s health could be better, though he did not provide specifics about his current health problems. Rushforth also said they believe their client, who the defense team now refers to as Nashwan, was tortured.
The defense team described him as very intelligent, and said he reads copiously, including civilian and religious news, U.S. politics and sports news. He is an avid soccer fan, they said.
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