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Federal court begins first civilian trial of ex-Guantanamo detainee

The first civilian trial of a former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee began Wednesday, as Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive] appeared in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] for jury selection. Ghailani, a Tanzanian man, is accused of a key role in the 1998 bombings against two US embassies in Africa. Ghailani's defense filed a motion to dismiss over the summer, saying he would not get a fair trial, but the court denied the motion [text, PDF; JURIST report], because "the government is entitled to attempt to hold Ghailani accountable in a court of law for his alleged complicity in the murder of 224 people and the injury of more than 1,000 others." The pool of hundreds of potential jurors will be cut down to 12, likely by Monday [AFP report] when opening statements are expected to begin.

US President Barack Obama [official profile] said last year in a speech on national security [transcript; JURIST report] that preventing Ghailani from coming to the US would prevent his trial and conviction and that it is time to see that justice is served. Ghailani was 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 SDNY in June 2009 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.

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