Moments ago in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al Darbi pleaded guilty to all charges associated with the 2000 attack on the MV Limburg. Military commissions judge Air Force Colonel Mark Allred is in the process of accepting his guilty plea. This represents the eighth military commission trial and the sixth guilty plea at Guantanamo Bay.
Earlier this month, al Darbi’s case was slated for military commission. Charges were referred and documents detailing a judge, trial counsel, defense counsel, and others were filed in preparation for trial. Al Darbi was charged with five counts related to the bombing of the French civilian oil tanker, MV Limburg, on October 6, 2002.
The Limburg was rammed by a small vessel packed with explosives off the coast of Yemen. The ensuing explosion ripped a hole in the hull of the tanker, left one crew member dead, injured 12 others, and spilled more than 90,000 barrels of oil into the sea. Although al Darbi was already in U.S. custody at the time of the attack, there was substantial evidence that he was a member of al-Qaeda, had conspired to attack the oil tanker, and took substantial steps toward achieving this goal, including purchasing a boat used in the attack on the tanker.
In connection with this, al Darbi was charged with attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, hazarding a vessel, terrorism, and attempt to hazard a vessel and commit terrorism.
The plea agreement, which will be revealed shortly in court, no doubt states that in consideration for his plea of guilty to the offenses and his truthful testimony against other defendants, he will receive a maximum confinement period of some number of years. This arrangement could have significant implications for the Al-Nashiri case, which is scheduled for trial on September 2, 2014, and is currently in pre-trial proceedings. Al Darbi could be asked to testify against the USS Cole bomber this fall pursuant to this agreement, since there is evidence that al Darbi received substantial instruction from Al-Nashiri.
Even if al Darbi is not brought in to testify against Al-Nashiri, things at Guantanamo Bay are heating up. A trial date has been set for Al-Nashiri, and proceedings are moving forward against the 9/11 conspirators, including mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. These high-profile proceedings are sure to generate a lot of attention on military commissions. Military commissions are the proper venue for select terrorism cases, as are Article III federal courts. Both are an integral part of our justice system and are necessary to uphold the rule of law, promote justice, and ensure the safety of U.S. citizens.