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US government not seeking death penalty in ex-Guantanamo detainee civilian trial

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told federal prosecutors in a letter released Monday that the US government will not seek the death penalty for a former Guantanamo detainee now facing a civilian trial. Tanzanian national Ahmed Ghailani [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] is accused of involvement in the 1998 bombing attacks against US embassies [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Tanzania and Kenya that left hundreds dead including 12 Americans. There were no reasons given for the decision not to see the death penalty. The other defendants involved in the embassy bombings have already received life sentences because the US agreed not to seek the death penalty as a condition of extradition.

Ghailani is the first Guantanamo detainee to be brought to the US for prosecution. Having been held at the Guantanamo facility since 2006 following his 2004 arrest in Pakistan, Ghailani was transferred [JURIST report] to the US in June to face 286 separate counts including involvement in the bombings and conspiring with members of al Qaeda to kill Americans worldwide. He pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] at his initial appearance. In a rare move [JURIST op-ed] this June, Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] tentatively granted [JURIST report] Ghailani's request that his military lawyers be allowed to represent him in civilian court. The announcement [JURIST report] that Ghailani would be tried in federal court came this past June following the ordered review of all Guantanamo detainees pursuant to plans to close the detention facility [JURIST news archive].

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