Guantanamo Bay detention camp

Guantanamo war court process is a ‘cluster covfefe’, says al-Qaeda terrorist awaiting sentencing

Majid Khan, who became a government informant, used a made-up word coined by Donald Trump to describe his convoluted court proceedings

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 July, 2018, 2:13pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 July, 2018, 2:13pm

A confessed al-Qaeda terrorist turned US government informant who is awaiting sentencing at Guantanamo complained to a war court judge this week of problems between his attorneys and prosecutors at a brief war court hearing ahead of his 2019 sentencing.

“Over the last past six years, I’ve … been struggling with this whole process and the whole military commission system is pretty stagnant,” prisoner Majid Khan, a suburban Baltimore high school graduate, told a new judge on his case Tuesday, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.

“I call it ‘cluster covfefe,’ ” the Pakistani citizen added, using a made-up word or typo that President Donald Trump tweeted a year ago, in a midnight commentary about negative press coverage.

Khan, 38, a Pakistani former legal US resident, is awaiting sentencing next year on charges of conspiring with al-Qaeda, murder, attempted murder and spying, under a plea agreement that permits his release from the prison in 13 years. He was held and tortured for more than three years in the CIA’s secret prison network, according to his lawyers and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s declassified version of the so-called Torture Report.

I hear a lot of ominous language from prosecutors all the time, so I don’t know where I am standing
Majid Khan

Without explaining further, he told the judge that his lawyers and prosecutors weren’t getting along. “I hear a lot of ominous language from prosecutors all the time, so I don’t know where I am standing,” he said, adding that he preferred a more “amicable milieu.”

One issue had been the timing of his sentencing, now set for July 1, 2019. As part of the 2012 plea, he agreed to become a government witness, something his military jury might view favourably in deciding his sentence. But no war crimes case has come to trial that required his testimony, so his sentencing hearing has been has twice postponed by agreement of both sides.

“Majid just wants to move forward and maximise his cooperation with as little disruption as possible,” said defence attorney Wells Dixon, who represents Khan pro bono. “He may get frustrated from time to time, but that’s only human. He’s done remarkably well over the last six years. We’re very proud of him.”

Another issue appears to be a churn of lawyers on the case. For Tuesday’s 2-hour, 10-minute hearing, there was a different judge, different prosecution team and different military defence attorney from his last appearance in September 2016. Khan’s long-serving military defence attorney, Army Lieutenant Colonel Jon Jackson, has retired from service and was replaced by Navy Lieutenant Commander Jared Hernandez, who is due to leave the case in September.

Khan, who Hernandez described in court as “Guantanamo’s only high-value cooperator,” wants the Pentagon to hire Jackson as a civilian defence lawyer for the case.