Plea Deal Signals Trouble with Case Against Translator



A former Arabic translator at the federal prison camp at Guantanamo Bay has
agreed to plead guilty Monday to taking classified material from the base
and lying to investigators, under a deal with prosecutors that would make
him a free man in a few months.

Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, 32, an Egyptian-born US citizen, will be sentenced to
20 months in prison if US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock accepts a plea
agreement that federal prosecutors filed in US District Court in Boston
yesterday.

The resolution of Mehalba's case would mark the end of a series of
high-profile prosecutions of translators and military officers at
Guantanamo Bay that began with accusations of espionage and treason and
ended with far lesser charges or none at all.

Mehalba, a civilian translator, was one of four men arrested in summer and
fall 2003 amid separate investigations into whether they had links to
Muslim militants or were leaking information about interrogations or
detainees at the camp, where the US government has detained hundreds on
suspicion of links to Al Qaeda or the ousted Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

But no charges of spying or having terrorist ties remained against any of
the four. In Mehalba's case, he will plead guilty to everything he was
ultimately charged with: having taken information off the base he should
not have had and lying about it.

"He's not a terrorist, not a spy," said Boston lawyer Joseph Savage, one of
Mehalba's attorneys. "We think the agreement we're proposing is the right
result.

 


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