updated 10/31/2008 8:11:37 PM ET 2008-11-01T00:11:37

A jury at Guantanamo's second war-crimes trial reached a verdict Friday on whether al-Qaida's alleged "media secretary" is guilty of war crimes that could put him in prison for life.

But the decision will not be announced until Monday because defendant Ali Hamza al-Bahlul was already back in his maximum-security cell when the verdict was reached, said the judge, Air Force Col. Ronald Gregory. The judge told al-Bahlul no announcement would be made without his presence.

The nine jurors, all Pentagon-approved U.S. military officers, deliberated for four hours. The accused offered no defense after calling the proceedings a "legal farce."

The prosecution said al-Bahlul's violent propaganda videos helped inspire the Sept. 11 attacks. The Yemeni prisoner also helped prepare at least two Sept. 11 hijackers for their mission and instructed many other terrorists through videos he created as a propagandist for al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Army Maj. Daniel Cowhig said.

"The accused shouted through the medium of video, the Internet, and DVDs: Love death, hate life," Cowhig told the jury at the isolated Navy base.

Refused to be present
Al-Bahlul refused to present a defense in the weeklong trial, and his Pentagon-appointed lawyer did not speak at all in deference to his client's wishes, declining to answer questions from the judge.

A Yemeni who was brought to Guantanamo in 2002, al-Bahlul is the second prisoner to go through a war crimes trial under the special military commissions system. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of conspiracy, supporting terrorism and solicitation to commit murder.

The military claims al-Bahlul committed war crimes by serving as chief propagandist for al-Qaida and as an aide to its leader, Osama bin Laden. Videos made by the defendant were allegedly shown to terrorist recruits at training camps in Afghanistan.

Cowhig said he also arranged for lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta to swear a loyalty oath to bin Laden, and prepared martyrdom wills for Atta and fellow hijacker Ziad Jarrah in preparation for the attacks against the United States.

"(These videos) contain the thoughts, the beliefs, the ideals of the accused," the prosecutor said.

Al-Qaida's media chief
The military says al-Bahlul repeatedly admitted to interrogators that he was al-Qaida's media chief and made propaganda videos for bin Laden. Al-Bahlul doesn't consider his actions criminal. But the U.S. military already determined him to be an unlawful enemy combatant, and says any work he did for al-Qaida is by definition a war crime because al-Qaida is a terrorist organization.

At one point, al-Bahlul smiled broadly as the uniformed prosecutor directly addressed the defendant.

"The accused identifies himself as an officer of al-Qaida," Cowhig said, looking at the slight man with a close-cropped beard. "Al-Qaida is not an army, and you are not an officer."

The judge quickly ordered Cowhig to stop addressing the defendant and instead turn his attention to the jurors.

Jamil Dakwar, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who has been observing the trial, said the prosecution failed to prove al-Bahlul has any real connection to the Sept. 11 attacks.

"It is an injustice to the victims of 9-11 for the government to build its case solely by videos and images of the attacks," Dakwar said. "Americans deserve better than this."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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