Sudanese accused as payroll clerk for bin Laden gets hearing in Cuba

Trial slated for December

famed detainees will be charged soon, Army says


GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba - A Sudanese man who allegedly handled Osama bin Laden's payroll appeared before a U.S. tribunal here yesterday, while the government's chief war crimes prosecutor said the next batch of al-Qaida suspects to face military trial would include militants known to ordinary Americans.

"The American people will recognize the names of these people," said Army Col. Robert L. Swann, revealing for the first time plans to charge nine more captives of the war on terror in "the next few months."

At least one announcement would come in a matter of weeks, he said.

Held for interrogation

Swann would not elaborate. But among the best-known suspects in U.S. custody are al-Qaida operations leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and alleged money supplier Ramzi Binalshibh, who have been reported held for interrogation at secret locations.

U.S. officials have never confirmed that any high-profile suspects are being held at Camp Delta, the sprawling interrogation center that today has about 600 prisoners, mostly thought to be foot soldiers in bin Laden's al-Qaida movement.

Swann's comments capped a weeklong opening of the first U.S. war crimes trials since World War II with hearings for the only four people who have been charged so far under the Military Commission system.

15 to be tried

President Bush authorized the prison camp and war crimes commission to interrogate and try suspects captured mostly in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He has so far given the Pentagon permission to bring 15 captives to trial.

In court yesterday, Sudanese suspect Ibrahim al Qosi, 44, appeared in a traditional Muslim skullcap and stroked a three-inch-long salt-and-pepper beard as five U.S. colonels read charge sheets alleging that he had been in league with bin Laden for about 15 years.

For the hearing, the man accused of being an al-Qaida payroll clerk traded his orange prisoner jumpsuit for an oversized polo shirt, chino pants and slip-on blue sneakers. They were provided at government expense: $30.

The United States alleges that Qosi fought alongside Muslims in Chechnya; served as cook, driver and, at times, bodyguard for bin Laden; and distributed funds funneled to al-Qaida for explosives and weapons.

He is represented by Air Force Lt. Col. Sharon Shaffer, the first woman to defend a Camp Delta captive. Qosi said he wanted to keep Shaffer as his lawyer but said she needed help preparing his case.

Three military officers, led by Marine Lt. Col. Kurt Brubaker, are prosecuting the Qosi case, while Shaffer is working solo and was off the case for several weeks because of a conflicting Air Force assignment.

As a result, the panel postponed both Qosi's formal arraignment and attorneys' preliminary arguments.

Still, Qosi was given a Dec. 7 trial date, meaning he would be the first captive tried by the commission.

Earlier, the panel set a Jan. 10 trial date for Australian David Hicks. No trial dates were set for two men from Yemen - Salim Hamdan, 34, and Ali Hamza Bahlul, 36.

Defense disadvantage

Several members of the Pentagon defense team have protested this week that the defense team has been out-staffed and out-resourced by the Pentagon in everything from lawyers to paralegals to equipment and researchers.

Army Col. Peter Brownback III, who is presiding over the five-member Military Commission, said Shaffer would get a second defense lawyer and a paralegal soon.

Separately, Swann also said that changes in the guidelines governing the commissions were likely possible and that Bahlul might be allowed to act as his own attorney.

On Thursday, Bahlul refused to accept two Pentagon-appointed lawyers who were assigned to his case: Army Maj. Mark Bridges and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Philip Sundel.

Bahlul is described in charge sheets as a sometime bin Laden bodyguard who made al-Qaida videos.

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