(Updates with detainee history, Pentagon comment starting in fourth paragraph.)
Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. accused a Pakistani detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of conspiring with Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in plots including a plan to blow up U.S. gas stations and to assassinate Pakistan’s then- President Pervez Musharraf.
The charges against Majid Shoukat Khan, 31, are the first filed against him in the U.S. Military Commissions system, according to the office’s website. Khan, who has been held at Guantanamo since at least 2006, also is charged with aiding the August 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, an attack also organized in part by Mohammed, according to a Defense Department statement today.
“Based on these allegations and others outlined in the charge sheet, Khan is charged with conspiracy, murder and attempted murder in violation of the law of war, providing material support for terrorism, and spying,” the department said. “The charges allege that Khan joined with members of al- Qaeda in Pakistan to plan and prepare attacks against diverse targets in the United States, Indonesia and elsewhere after Sept. 11, 2001.”
Khan lived in Baltimore, Maryland, from 1996 until he returned to Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002 using a fraudulently obtained travel document, the department said.
Gas Station Plot
The gas station plot involved plans to blow up underground gasoline storage tanks, the Defense Department said. A version of a classified 2004 report from the agency’s then-inspector general, John Helgerson, said that among plots the government uncovered in an interrogation program that was under scrutiny at the time was one to “blow up several U.S. gas stations to create panic and havoc.”
Khan had moved to the U.S. from Pakistan with his family, graduated from high school there and worked in the family gas station, according to a June 2008 Defense Department memo recommending his continued detention at Guantanamo. The memo cited the detainee’s own account for the information.
Khan was among 14 high-level terrorist suspects identified in a September 2006 announcement by President George W. Bush as having been transferred to Guantanamo from secret detention centers run by the Central Intelligence Agency. It was the first time the administration acknowledged the existence of the CIA prisons.
In the plot to assassinate Musharraf, Khan donned a suicide vest and sat in a mosque waiting for the then-president. Musharraf didn’t show up, according to the department statement today.
Khan returned to Baltimore in March 2002, where he bought a laptop computer for al-Qaeda and contacted a military recruiter for materials regarding the U.S. armed services that he planned to give to Mohammed, the department said. He then returned to Pakistan and worked directly for Mohammed and others, including alleged fellow Sept. 11 plotter Ali Abdul al-Aziz Ali.
Khan, “at the direction of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ali Abdul al-Aziz Ali, traveled with his wife in December of 2002 from Pakistan to Bangkok, Thailand, where he evaded notice by posing as a tourist,” according to the department.
There he delivered $50,000 from al-Qaeda to a southeast Asia-based affiliate, which in turn transferred the money to the alleged terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. That organization used the money in the Marriott Hotel bombing, according to the Pentagon. The attack killed 11 people and wounded at least 81 others.
Referring to Panel
Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor for the military commissions, has recommended the charges be referred to the panel for trial. The charges are filed in a way that precludes the death penalty, so the maximum possible punishment is life in prison.
It’s then up to the retired military officer who serves as “the convening authority” to determine whether the case will proceed. He would “designate the commission panel members who function as jurors,” according to the Pentagon. “The chief trial judge of the Military Commissions Trial Judiciary would also detail a military judge to the case.”
--Editors: Steven Komarow, Jeanne Cummings.
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