Written by 17:26 World

War Veterans and Family Testify at Al Qaeda Commander’s War Crimes Tribunal

A U.S. Army veteran spoke about being left blind by a sniper’s bullet in wartime Afghanistan. A Florida father said he lost his best friend when a roadside charge killed his eldest son, a Green Beret. A former bomb squad member described two decades of trauma and anxiety from dismantling a car bomb that could have killed him.

The physical and emotional carnage of the early years of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was on display Friday as prosecutors presented their case to an 11-member U.S. military jury hearing evidence in the sentencing trial of a prisoner called Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi.

Mr. Hadi, 63, sat silently alongside his American military and civilian lawyers, mostly with his head bowed, throughout the testimony. Next week he will address the jury about his own failing health and trauma from time in U.S. detention, starting with several months in C.I.A. custody after his capture in Turkey in 2006.

The case is an unusual one at the court, which has focused on terrorism cases, such as the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In an 18-page written plea, Mr. Hadi admitted that he served as a commander of Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan who had committed classic war crimes, including using civilian cover for attacks such as turning a taxi into a car bomb.

Friday’s testimony cast a spotlight on the invasion by an international coalition assembled by President George W. Bush after Sept. 11 to hunt down Osama bin Laden and dismantle the Taliban for providing safe haven to Al Qaeda. It was America’s longest war and ended in a withdrawal of U.S. forces in August 2021, 10 months before Mr. Hadi pleaded guilty.

Sgt. Douglas Van Tassel, an active duty Canadian paratrooper, donned his uniform including his jump boots to testify to the loss of a compatriot, Cpl. Jamie B. Murphy, 26, who was killed in 2004 when a suicide bomber attacked their two-jeep convoy as they drove near Kabul.

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Last modified: 16 June 2024
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