The Pentagon Thursday abruptly canceled a pre-trial hearing at Guantánamo next week and said it would instead hold “other proceedings” at the war court for an alleged Sudanese terror trainer -- the strongest sign yet that the Obama administration had secured another plea agreement in its revamped military commissions.
Noor Uthman Mohammed, in his 40s, is accused of being a trainer and sometime-commander in charge of a paramilitary camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers honed their skills before the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide attacks. Intelligence agents captured him in March 2002 in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in a dragnet that netted a man the CIA considered an early, prized captive in the war on terror -- Zayn Abidin Mohammad al Hussain, widely known as “Abu Zubayda.”
Noor was sent to Guantánamo, where he is now the only captive currently facing war crimes charges -- conspiracy and providing material support for terror. Pentagon prosecutors last year secured convictions in two al Qaeda foot soldier cases in exchange for short sentences. Confessed teen terrorist Omar Khadr, now 24, returns to Canada later this year. Sudanese captive Ibrahim Qosi, 51, pleaded guilty this summer in a deal that could repatriate him in July 2012.
Next week’s hearing was scheduled for legal arguments before the judge, Navy Capt. Moira Modzelewski, and was a necessary step toward a trial.
But, military sources confirmed this week that the Defense Department was airlifting a jury pool to the base in time for next week’s hearing. Only in the event of a plea would a panel of senior U.S. military officers be called upon to deliberate a for-the-record punishment.
On Thursday night the Pentagon notified reporters that the hearing had been scrubbed. “Other proceedings in Noor’s military commission case will take place instead,” said Army Lt. Col. Tanya Bradsher.
Bradsher would neither confirm nor deny that a signed plea deal was on file with the court in the Noor case. Neither would Noor’s lead Pentagon defense attorney, Army Maj. Amy Fitzgibbons.
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