WASHINGTON — An Air Force translator at the U.S. prison camp for suspected terrorists has been charged with espionage and aiding the enemy — counts that could carry the death penalty, a military spokesman said Tuesday.
Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi is being held at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, facing 32 criminal charges, spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said.
Al-Halabi worked as an Arabic language translator at the prison camp for al-Qaida and Taliban suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Shavers said. The Air Force enlisted man knew the Muslim chaplain at the prison who was arrested earlier this month, but it is unclear whether the two arrests are linked, Shavers said.
The translator was arrested more than six weeks before the chaplain, he said.
Al-Halabi is charged with eight counts related to espionage, three counts of aiding the enemy, 11 counts of disobeying a lawful order, nine counts of making a false official statement and one count of bank fraud.
Espionage and aiding the enemy are military charges that can carry the death penalty, said Eugene Fidell, a civilian lawyer in Washington and president of the National Institute of Military Justice. The commanding general in charge of al-Halabi’s case would have to decide whether military prosecutors could seek the death penalty in his case, Fidell said.
If the death penalty is an option, the 12-member military jury that hears the case would have to vote unanimously to impose it, Fidell said.
Al-Halabi was based at Travis Air Force Base in California and assigned to a logistics unit there, Shavers said.
Pentagon officials said an investigation into possible security breaches at Guantanamo Bay continues.
About 660 suspected al-Qaida or Taliban members are imprisoned at the U.S. Navy base. American officials are interrogating them for information on the terrorist network.
The military has classified many details about the prison camp and the detainees and has not identified any of the men being held there. Military officials have said the fight against terrorism could be hampered if terrorist groups got such information.
The Muslim military chaplain who ministered to the inmates at the camp, Army Capt. Yousef Yee, was arrested Sept. 10 in Jacksonville, Fla., after getting off a flight from Guantanamo Bay.
A senior law enforcement official said authorities confiscated classified documents Yee was carrying.
Yee, 35, is being held at a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. A military magistrate ruled on Sept. 15 there was enough evidence to hold Yee for up to two months while the military investigates.
Al-Halabi was arrested July 23 at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, also after getting off a flight from the base in Cuba. The next day, military authorities flew al-Halabi to Travis Air Force Base. At some point later, he was transferred to Vandenberg, Shavers said.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.