The Department of Justice today unsealed a six-count indictment against a Nigerien citizen, including terrorism-related charges, making him the latest suspected member of al Qaeda to be brought before civilian courts.
Filed in the Eastern District Court of New York, the charges against Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun include “conspiracy to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan, conspiracy to bomb American diplomatic facilities in Nigeria, conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda, providing material support to al Qaeda, and related firearms and explosives counts.”
According to the indictment, Harun’s activities with al Qaeda spanned nearly a decade, including actively taking part in hostilities against U.S. forces between 2002 and 2003. From there he underwent additional training in Nigeria, with the ultimate goal of attacking U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities there. This aligns with a 2007 briefing on a separate detainee being held in Guantanamo Bay, released through Wikileaks, where Harun was identified as being an al Qaeda operative based in Nigeria at the time.
After the Libyan government released Harun from its custody in June 2011, right around the time then-leader Col. Moamar Qaddafi was fighting off rebels, the alleged terrorist was then arrested by Italian authorities following his assaulting officers on-board a refugee ship. He was then transferred to U.S. custody and later brought to New York, where charges were unsealed against him today:
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos said, “Vowing allegiance to al Qaeda and training to commit violent jihad are not the worst of Harun’s alleged crimes. The allegations include actually attacking U.S troops and plotting to use explosives to kill U.S. diplomats. As alleged, Harun not only intended to but did commit acts of terrorism against Americans. Now he is subject to the American justice system. We remain committed to protecting the safety of Americans and our national security.”
Following his arrival in the United States on Oct. 21, 2012, Harun was held in federal custody, a Justice Deparment official told ThinkProgress without providing further detail. While there, the U.S. government requested that the charges against him be sealed until today, to which Harun’s defense counsel agreed. This was done based on the government’s belief that Harun could provide information relative to U.S. national security, according to the same Justice Department official.
The fact that Harun is being charged in a civilian court at all, though, fits in with a change in the tide with regard to how instances of terrorism are prosecuted. Among the reasons to applaud this shift, civilian courts have been shown in the past to be better at obtaining usable information from suspected terrorists rather than military courts. Civilian courts also manage a much higher conviction rate than their military counterparts.
Harun joins Sulaiman Abu Ghaith — son-in-law of Osama bin Laden — in facing criminal charges in New York. The decision to try Ghaith in a civilian court, rather than at Gitmo, was immediately met with scorn from Republicans, including Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).