Guantanamo prisoner 'guilty' in French tanker bombing; pact could limit sentence to 15 years

The Associated Press

In this undated photo released by the family of Ahmed al-Darbi on Friday, Aug. 7, 2009, which was provided to them by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Guantanamo detainee Ahmed al-Darbi is seen at Camp 4 of the detention center on Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. A Guantanamo Bay prisoner pleaded guilty Thursday to war crimes charges for helping plan the suicide bombing of an oil tanker off Yemen in 2002 that killed a crewman and wounded a dozen others. At an arraignment before a U.S. military judge, Ahmed al-Darbi of Saudi Arabia pleaded guilty to the five charges against him including terrorism, attacking civilians and hazarding a vessel for complicity in the al-Qaida attack on the French-flagged MV Limburg. (AP Photo)

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Al-Darbi bought the boat that was loaded with explosives and detonated alongside the Limburg, prosecutors said. In addition to admitting to that Thursday, al-Darbi's plea agreement also acknowledged that he had obtained visas for the Yemeni attack operatives, helped trained them and hired the boat crew, among other things.

Al-Darbi was captured at the airport in Baku, Azerbaijan in June 2002. Several weeks later, he reportedly was taken blindfolded to the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, through which many if not most of the Guantanamo detainees have passed. Before being transferred to Guantanamo, he says he was tortured at Bagram — was kicked and dragged around a room by U.S. troops while music blared in the background; was forced at times to kneel with his hands cuffed above his head through the night and was repeatedly interrogated, often while hooded. He also describes a process in which he was hooded, shaken violently and subjected to water poured over his head.

Thursday's development represents the sixth time there has been a plea agreement with a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, which was opened in 2002 to hold terrorist suspects captured in what was originally then called the global war on terror.

In 2009, on the second day of his presidency, President Barack Obama ordered the detention center to be closed within one year, but opponents in Congress refuse to let the detainees come to the U.S. for trial, citing security risks to Americans. Lawmakers also have blocked the transfer and resettlement of some detainees to other nations, fearing they will return to terrorist havens upon their release.

There are 155 detainees held there now, down from a peak of about 660 a decade ago. Most were tried, transferred or cleared for release under President George W. Bush.

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