Over the weekend, al-Arabiya reported that Gitmo detainee Ibrahim al-Qosi, who in July pled guilty to conspiring with al-Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism by serving as Osama Bin Laden’s cook and occasional driver, was moved from a communal living camp to an isolation unit, violating the plea agreement struck in July. This plea agreement — which was hammered out in secret — reportedly called for two years in addition to the eight he’s already served.
Everyone in the courtroom on the day al-Qosi was sentenced in August — the prosecutors, the judge, the defense counsel and the convicted detainee — agreed to the terms of the plea deal. But now, Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF-Gitmo) has reneged on the agreement and moved al-Qosi into an isolation unit. (JTF-Gitmo operates the detention facility at Guantánamo.)
JTF-Gitmo asserts that they’re just following the rules — that this is how they treat all convicted Gitmo detainees. (And by “all,” they mean the one other convicted detainee, Ali Hamza al-Bahlul.)
So this claim of adhering to standard operating procedure is pretty meaningless, but it turns out there are no formal rules either. The newly reissued manual (PDF) doesn’t address how and where convicted detainees should be held. This fact came to light when, at the sentencing hearing, Judge Paul initially ordered al-Qosi to be held in a communal camp, and JTF-Gitmo objected, telling the judge she had no authority over detention decisions. Judge Paul then changed her order to a strong recommendation that al-Qosi be housed in communal living quarters, where he could eat, pray and exercise with pretrial detainees.
Mind you, al-Qosi’s actual sentence is still a secret — a secret that could be revealed after the November election.
The move could also have farther reaching consequences as well: Al-Qosi’s defense attorney, Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier, told the Associated Press that changing the terms of her client’s detention after sentencing could jeopardize other detainees’ willingness to agree to plead out. “The prosecutors put themselves out on a limb by promising something that they didn’t have the power to grant,” she said. “Is it going to have a chilling effect? Possibly.”