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Federal judge bars key witness in trial of ex-Guantanamo detainee

A federal judge on Wednesday barred key US government witness Hussein Abebe from testifying in the trial against former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Ahmed Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive]. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website] held that prosecutors could not use Abebe's testimony because it was the product of statements made by Ghailani to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] under duress. While being detained by the CIA, Ghailani was subjected [AFP report] to what the government refers to "enhanced interrogation," which Ghailani's lawyers have described as torture. Kaplan postponed the trial until Tuesday to allow the prosecutors time to appeal his decision.

In July, Kaplan refused to dismiss charges [JURIST report] against Ghailani ruling that his Sixth Amendment [text] right to a speedy trial was not violated. Ghailani's lawyers had sought a dismissal of charges, arguing that he was denied the right to a speedy trial [JURIST reports] while being detained for nearly five years in CIA secret prisons and later at Guantanamo Bay. Earlier that month, Kaplan ruled that Ghailani is not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and is therefore fit to stand trial [JURIST report]. The issue of Ghailani's psychological state arose after he requested to be exempt [JURIST report] from prison strip searches because it triggers his PTSD, which he allegedly acquired while being interrogated at an overseas CIA detention camp. In May, Kaplan refused to dismiss criminal charges [JURIST report] against Ghailani, despite his lawyer's claims that he had been tortured in prison. 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 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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