MIAMI (Reuters) - A Sudanese prisoner accused of guarding Osama bin Laden and helping him escape U.S. forces in Afghanistan pleaded guilty at Guantanamo on Wednesday, giving the Obama administration its first conviction in the controversial war crimes court.
Ibrahim al Qosi pleaded guilty to conspiring with al Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism, Guantanamo court spokesman Joe DellaVedova said.
Qosi, who ran the kitchen at bin Laden’s Star of Jihad compound in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, has been held at Guantanamo for more than eight years.
His sentence could range from no additional time to life imprisonment, DellaVedova said by phone from the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for August 9.
Qosi is only the fourth captive convicted in the controversial military tribunals since the Guantanamo detention camp was opened to hold terrorism suspects in January 2002.
President Barack Obama’s pledge to shut down the detention camp has been stymied by Congress, and it still holds 181 prisoners. Most are being held as terrorist suspects, though some have been cleared by the U.S. courts and are awaiting resettlement.
Qosi, 50, was charged by the U.S. military of acting as bin Laden’s driver and bodyguard and helping the al Qaeda leader escape to the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. He was also accused of being part of an al Qaeda mortar crew.
He entered his guilty plea during a two-hour hearing, during which he said under oath that he provided logistical support for al Qaeda with the full knowledge that the group engaged in acts of terrorism, DellaVedova said.
“He admitted he engaged in hostilities against the United States in violation of the laws of war,” DellaVedova said.
“Al Qosi said under oath that he intentionally supported al Qaeda in hostilities against the United States since at least 1996, when Osama bin Laden issued an order urging followers to commit acts of terrorism against the United States.”