Gitmo prisoner becomes first to stand trial in US
Ahmed Ghailani in New York to face 286 counts of terrorism
An al-Qaeda suspect accused in the 1998 American Embassy bombings in Africa was transferred from Guantanamo Bay Tuesday for prosecution in a New York court, the Justice Department said.
Ahmed Ghailani will become the first Guantanamo detainee to go on trial in a civilian U.S. court. He was to make an appearance in federal court in Manhattan later in the day, the department said in a statement.
Ghailani, a Tanzanian who had been held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba since September 2006, arrived in New York early Tuesday under escort from the U.S. Marshals Service.
The Justice Department said he faced 286 counts, including conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda to kill Americans anywhere in the world, and separate charges of murder for the deaths of each of the 224 people killed in the Aug. 7, 1998, U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya.
Several of the counts against Ghailani, including murder of U.S. employees at the embassies and use and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction against U.S. nationals, carry maximum sentences of death or life in prison.
"The Justice Department has a long history of securely detaining and successfully prosecuting terror suspects through the criminal justice system, and we will bring that experience to bear in seeking justice in this case," Attorney General Eric Holder said in the statement.
The Justice Department has a long history of securely detaining and successfully prosecuting terror suspects through the criminal justice system, and we will bring that experience to bear in seeking justice in this case
Eric Holder, Attorney General
Eleven people were killed and at least 85 were wounded in the Tanzania bombing and 213 people were killed in Kenya.
The decision to bring Ghailani to trial in New York stemmed from a review of the 240 foreign terrorism suspects held at the prison in Cuba.
President Barack Obama has ordered the Guantanamo Bay prison, set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, closed by the end of January.
Members of Congress object to transferring any of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the United States, saying it would put American security at risk even if they were jailed.
The Guantanamo Review Task Force looked at Ghailani's case and as a result it was referred to the Justice Department for prosecution in the Southern District of New York, the Justice Department said.
Ghailani is charged with helping to buy a truck and oxygen and acetylene tanks used in the Tanzania bombing, and of loading boxes of TNT, detonators, and other equipment into the back of the truck in the weeks immediately before the bombing.
At a 2007 hearing at Guantanamo Bay to determine that he was an "enemy combatant," Ghailani confessed and apologized for supplying equipment used in the Tanzania bombing but said he did not know the supplies would be used to attack the embassy, according to military transcripts.
He told the Guantanamo review panel he bought the TNT used in the bombing, purchased a cell phone used by another person involved in the attack and was present when a third person bought a truck used in the attack, the transcript said.
Zachary Katznelson, legal director of Reprieve, a London-based group of human rights lawyers who work on Guantanamo cases said, "This should be a model for other cases as well. Suspects should be brought to civilian courts, which are tried and tested and which get the job done, rather to military courts where they are essentially making it up as they go along."
This should be a model for other cases as well. Suspects should be brought to civilian courts, which are tried and tested and which get the job done, rather to military courts where they are essentially making it up as they go along
Zachary Katznelson, legal director of Reprieve