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Former bin Laden cook reaches secret sentencing deal with U.S. government

A jury of at least five military officers will be selected in Qosi's case. The judge and lawyers Monday began questioning a panel of 15 officers, five women and 10 men, whose names are protected. They were questioned about things such as their service, if they knew anyone killed or injured on Sept. 11, 2001, and if they knew and had opinions about Arabs or Muslims.

Both the defense and the prosecution are allowed to strike one juror each, and the court can dismiss any number if the judge believes they cannot act impartially.

The Qosi panel is ostensibly to hear evidence and determine a sentence for him. But if they impose a prison sentence that exceeds the sentence laid out in the plea agreement, it will be moot, unless Qosi breaks the agreement. A military lawyer said in court Monday that Qosi has met all of his obligations under the pact.

Iglesias also refused to say whether the government has guaranteed Qosi that he will be repatriated to Sudan after he serves any sentence. The Obama administration, much like the Bush administration, asserts a right to detain what it calls "unprivileged belligerents" under the laws of war, a claim that is independent of any military commission finding.

If the military jury comes back with a lesser sentence, the "Convening Authority," the Pentagon official who refers cases for prosecution, can reduce Qosi's sentence, officials said.

Al-Arabyia, a 24-hour Arab news network based in Dubai, cited anonymous sources to report last month that the plea agreement calls for a two-year sentence.

In court Monday, Paul said the relevant officials at the Defense Department should ensure that Qosi serves any time he gets at Camp 4 -- a minimum-security facility at Guantanamo Bay where detainees live in communal quarters -- unless the military detention center at Guantanamo is closed. If that happens, and it appears unlikely as the Obama administration's efforts to close Guantanamo have stalled, Qosi will be moved to a similar prison facility that also offers communal living. If the government fails to live up to the deal, Paul said she will invalidate the guilty plea.

One of Qosi's attorneys had asked the judge to order confinement at Camp 4 after it became clear that officials at the Defense Department had not yet sanctioned Qosi's confinement there, despite the plea agreement. Pentagon policy had stated that detainees convicted in a military commission should be kept in isolation from other detainees.

In the past, defense officials have said that the Geneva Conventions do not allow convicts to be in the same facility as detainees.

Qosi agreed to a statement of facts that he followed bin Laden from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996. Qosi said that he served as a head cook at an al-Qaeda compound in Kandahar. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Qosi fled to Pakistan, where he was picked up the local authorities and handed over to American officials. He has been held at Guantanamo for more than eight years.

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