Fordham Law

First "high value" Gitmo detainee pleads guilty

Karen Greenberg in VolunteerTV, February 29, 2012

Media Source

FORT MEADE, MD (CBS) -- One of the men the United States government considers a high-value detainee pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of murder, attempted murder, material support for terrorism and spying.

Majid Shoukhat Khan appeared before a military judge in Guanatanmo Bay, Cuba this morning to enter his plea. He is expected to testify against other high value detainees awaiting trial at Guantanamo as part of his plea deal.

Khan was clean shaven, wearing a suit and tie along with glasses, and spoke in English to Judge Col. James Pohl. "Yes, sir," he told Judge Pohl when asked if his plea was guilty.

The court went into a short recess while Pohl decided what portions of the plea trial agreement would be released.

Khan, 32, is a native of Pakistan who moved to the United States with his family in 1996, where they were given political asylum. He went to high school in the Baltimore area and later worked at a chain of gas stations owned by his family.

Khan faced charges of murder and attempted murder by the military commission. He is accused of traveling to Pakistan in January 2002 after claiming he was going to travel to Saudi Arabia on a religious pilgrimage.

Khan's guilty plea means he will likely become a witness against other high-value detainees in custody at Guatanamo, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

Because Mohammed and other detainees claim information used against them had been obtained by torture, Khan's testimony gives prosecutors another important way of building their cases against them, according to Karen Greenberg of Fordham University Law School.

Greenberg told CBS News that Khan's plea would play a key role in future prosecutions.

The military indictment says that soon after arriving in Pakistan, Khan met with Mohammed. The two men allegedly discussed a plan for Khan to return to the U.S. and research plans to blow up underground gasoline storage tanks.

Khan spent five months in the U.S. before returning to Pakistan, allegedly at the orders of Mohammed. The indictment says that Khan recorded a so-called martyr's video and was prepared to carry out a suicide attack against then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Khan wore a suicide vest and sat in a mosque waiting for Musharraf to arrive but he never did.

That charge of attempted murder is part of the indictment. Khan is also charged with traveling to Thailand with $50,000 in fund supplied by al Qaeda. Khan allegedly delivered the money to confederates. That money, say military prosecutors, was used to fund the suicide attack on the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 5, 2003. Eleven people were killed in the attack and at least 81 others were injured.

Khan's alleged participation in the money transfer led him to be charged with murder and attempted murder in the Jakarta attack.

Khan was taken into custody by Pakistani authorities in Karachi in March 2003 and handed over to the U.S.

Members of Khan's family watched the hearing via closed circuit television at a secure location at Fort Meade, Maryland. They were not immediately available for comment after the agreement was announced.