April 27, 2005
A man accused of helping plot the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States said Tuesday in Madrid, Spain, that he had never even heard of Al Qaeda until he was arrested four years ago on suspicion of leading one of its cells.
Imad Yarkas condemned the suicide airliner attacks, saying such acts are banned under Islam.
"Some madmen act in unjust and incorrect ways. And I reject this," the Syrian-born Spaniard said, testifying for a second day in his trial on charges he arranged a planning meeting in Spain in July 2001 for one of the suicide pilots and a coordinator of the attacks.
Yarkas is on trial with 23 others in Europe’s biggest court case against radical groups with alleged ties to Osama bin Laden’s terror network.
If convicted, he faces a symbolic sentence of almost 75,000 years in prison — 25 years for each of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks.
Guantanamo criticism: Europe’s human rights body condemned the United States on Tuesday for using what it termed torture on terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The body also called on European countries not to cooperate in interrogating Guantanamo detainees.
A Pentagon spokesman said the United States was running "a safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guantanamo that is providing valuable information in the war on terror."
In a resolution, the Council of Europe also urged the United States to cease the practice of secret detentions and to investigate all instances of unlawful treatment of detainees at the naval base in eastern Cuba.
The U.S. government has denied using torture at the base, but investigations into alleged abuse there are ongoing.
Also Tuesday, the Pentagon said it transferred two Guantanamo detainees to the custody of the government of Belgium. No details on their identities were released.
About 520 prisoners remain at Guantanamo. Some 234 have left; 167 have been released outright and 67 have been transferred to the control of other governments.
Detainees are released when they are determined to no longer pose a threat and have no further intelligence value, the Pentagon says.
"The situation of prisoners at Guantanamo is very far from acceptable international standards," said Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian Duma’s international affairs committee and a member of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.
"Those who fought under the Taliban flag against the United States should be granted POW status," Kosachev said.
Millennium plot: Five years after being arrested with a trunkful of bomb-making materials at the U.S. border, Ahmed Ressam has proved a remarkable resource in the nation’s efforts to understand and eradicate terrorists.
He told investigators from many countries about the locations of terror cells and camps, who ran them and how they operated.
But as Ressam, 37, awaits sentencing today, prosecutors say he could have done more.
Ressam, an Algerian convicted of plotting a millennium-eve bombing at the Los Angeles airport, stopped cooperating with prosecutors in 2003 when he realized the Justice Department would not recommend a sentence shorter than 27 years, they say.
Prosecutors say that without his continued help, they may have to drop terrorism charges against two men: Abu Doha, who was accused of orchestrating the bomb plot, and Samir Ait Mohamed, also charged in the scheme. They are awaiting extradition to the United States, Doha in Britain and Mohamed in Canada.
The government is seeking 35 years behind bars for Ressam. His public defenders are asking for 12 1/2 years.
<!– xml begins…
… xml ends –>