Guantanamo detainee transferred to US for prosecution in embassy bombings

[JURIST] A Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee was transferred [press release] to New York on Tuesday to face criminal charges for his alleged terrorist activities, marking the first time a detainee from the facility has been brought to the US for prosecution. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile], who has been held at the controversial detention facility since 2006, is accused of being involved in the 1998 bombings of US embassies [PBS backgrounder] in Tanzania and Kenya which killed 224 people. Along with the embassy bombing charges, Ghailani is charged with 286 separate counts including conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda to kill Americans anywhere in the world. Ghailani is in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center [official website] in Manhattan and is scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in the Southern District of New York (SDNY). US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] addressed the Justice Department's competence in detaining and prosecuting terror suspects:


With his appearance in federal court today, Ahmed Ghailani is being held accountable for his alleged role in the bombing of US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the murder of 224 people. 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.

Also on Tuesday, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] released a fact sheet [press release] summarizing the detainment and prosecution of terrorism suspects in the US criminal justice system. The release assures that the SDNY US Attorney's Office [official website] is equipped for the prosecution of terrorism suspects by enumerating past cases in the jurisdiction where such suspects were brought to justice. The SDNY has previously indicted individuals for their role in the embassy bombings, including four defendants who were successfully sentenced to life in prison. The release goes on to list other terrorism suspects who have been charged and prosecuted in US federal courts across the country and specifies that the Bureau of Prisons [official website] currently detains 216 inmates with connections to international terrorism.

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]. The government has been struggling with the placement of released Guantanamo detainees since the January announcement of the facility's closure. Last week, the Canadian government denied a US request to accept Chinese Uighur Muslims [JURIST report] from the detention center and affirmed an unwillingness to accept other detainees. Earlier this month, the Council of the European Union agreed on parameters [JURIST report] for the acceptance of released Guantanamo detainees by European Union (EU) [official website] member states. The agreement followed a meeting in March between US officials and EU leaders to discuss plans [JURIST report] to transfer detainees to European countries. Individual member states have also indicated their openness to accepting detainees, including Lithuania, Ireland, and Portugal [JURIST reports]. Other states have expressed reservations about accepting detainees, including Poland and Spain, while Italy [JURIST reports] and the Netherlands [AFP report] have said they will not accept detainees.

 

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