Justice Department officials announced on Wednesday that they would try a suspected Al Qaeda operative in civilian court in Brooklyn rather than sending him to Guantánamo Bay for trial before a military commission.
The announcement came as federal officials unsealed a six-count indictment naming Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun in various plots dating from 2001. Mr. Harun was secretly extradited from Italy in October and has been held in New York ever since.
Harun, also known as “Spin Ghul,” is accused of plotting to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, and plotting to bomb US diplomatic offices in Nigeria from 2003 to 2005.
He is also charged with conspiring to provide material support, and actually providing material support, to Al Qaeda. In addition, the indictment charges him with using a machine gun, gunpowder, explosives, grenades, and missiles during the plots.
The decision to place him on trial in a civilian court follows the administration’s recent decision to transfer Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, to a federal court in New York.
Harun is a citizen of Niger who was born in Saudi Arabia. According to court documents, Harun traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, where he received training in Al Qaeda camps. After the 9/11 attacks, he allegedly fought against US forces while associated with Al Qaeda members in Pakistan.
The Nigeria bombing plot never materialized. After a co-conspirator was arrested, Harun traveled to Libya on his way to Europe. He was arrested and held in Libya until the government released him in June 2011.
Harun was taken into custody by Italian officials while on a refugee ship headed for Italy. He was held in Italy until his extradition to the US in October 2012.
If convicted, Harun faces life in prison.
“As alleged in the indictment, the defendant was a prototype Al Qaeda operative, trained by Al Qaeda in terrorist tradecraft, deployed to fight American servicemen, and dispatched to commit terrorist attacks throughout the world,” Loretta Lynch, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
“Whether they try to attack our servicemen on the battlefield or scheme to kill our diplomats and citizens in embassies abroad, terrorists will find no refuge,” she said
The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, said he was pleased the administration chose to use the federal court system to try the terror case. “We should not fear our Constitution – terrorists should,” he said in a statement.
Raha Wala of Human Rights First also praised the administration’s decision to use the civilian courts for Harun’s trial.
“This is just the latest in a long line of cases that show that federal courts can handle prosecuting terrorism suspects captured abroad,” Mr. Wala said in a statement.
He said nearly 500 cases related to international terrorism had been prosecuted in the federal courts since 9/11. Sixty-seven of those defendants involved individuals captured overseas, Mr. Wala said.