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Military Court Upholds Life Sentence for Osama's Media Specialist


A U.S. military court has upheld the conviction and life sentence of a Guantanamo detainee from Yemen who served as Osama bin Laden's media specialist.

Ali Hamza al-Bahlul was convicted in November 2008 of 35 counts of conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder and providing material support for terrorism.

But Bahlul had argued that his conviction should be reversed in part because none of the charges against him constituted war crimes that could be prosecuted by a military commission.

Bahlul and his attorneys also argued that his sentence was inappropriately severe, and an unconstitutional punishment for unpopular political speech.

The U.S. Court of Military Commission Review disagreed on all counts in a decision late Friday. The court acknowledged that while Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge their detention in federal courts, Bahlul, a Yemeni, could not claim the protections of the First  Amendment.

It is only the second time the court has reviewed a conviction.

The Miami Herald reports that Bahlul is Guantanomo's lone convict serving a life sentence.

"Unlike bin Laden’s driver, who is free in Yemen after serving a quick support-for-terror sentence, Bahlul demonstrated no remorse during his military commission trial, the panel ruled in a 139-page decision written by Navy Capt. Eric Price.

Prosecutors argued at a four-day no-contest trial in November 2008 that Bahlul incited suicide bombers before the 9/11 attacks by producing a crude al-Qaida recruiting film. The two-hour video spliced footage of fiery bin Laden speeches with the aftermath of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors off Aden, Yemen."

According to the Miami Herald, Bahlul refused to mount a defense at the trial, only offering "a 40-minute monologue that paid homage to bin Laden."

Bahlul was born on September 11, 1969.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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