[JURIST] A federal judge said Tuesday that former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Ahmed Ghailani [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] can be represented by his military lawyers in civilian court, pending the approval of superior officers. US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who said he expected the representation to be approved, asked the US Department of Defense [official website] to make their decision within a week [Reuters report]. Kaplan's approval followed a request made by Ghailani to have military lawyers Colonel Jeffrey Colwell and Major Richard Reiter continue representing him. JURIST Forum [media website] contributing editor and law professor Victor Hensen [academic profile] told JURIST Wednesday that it is rare for military lawyers to represent defendants in a civilian court and ventured that superior officers would not approve the representation. On Tuesday Kaplan also urged government officials [AP report] to decide with haste whether they will seek the death penalty in the case if Ghailani is convicted of conspiracy, estimating that the trial will take place next year.
Ghailani, who faces charges for his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of US embassies [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Tanzania and Kenya, is the first Guantanamo detainee to be brought to the US for prosecution. Having been held at the Guantanamo facility since 2006, Ghailani was transferred [JURIST report] to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] last week to face 286 separate counts including involvement in the bombings and conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to kill Americans worldwide. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] at his initial appearance. The announcement [JURIST report] that Ghailani would be tried in federal court came last month following the ordered review of all Guantanamo detainees pursuant to plans to close the detention facility [JURIST news archive].