Ex-Guantanamo detainee acquitted on all but one charge

[JURIST] The first civilian trial of an ex-Guantanamo detainee ended on Wednesday with the jury convicting [FBI press release] Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani [GlobalSecurity profile; JURIST news archive] on only one of 285 counts of conspiracy, murder and attempted murder for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of US embassies [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in Tanzania and Kenya. The jury in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] deliberated for five days before finding Ghailani guilty [WP report; video] of conspiracy to damage or destroy US property. The charge carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and could result in a life sentence. A guilty verdict on only one of the 285 charges is somewhat of a blow to the Obama administration's hopes to try prominent terror suspects in federal court. The US Department of Justice [official website] released a brief statement [text] following the verdict indicating that they are pleased that Ghailani will face at least 20 years in US prison. Critics of the administration's desire to try terrorists in US courts view the result as proof that civilian courts are not the place [NYT report] for terrorists. Many cite to the judge's decision [JURIST report] to exclude testimony and a key government witness that came from confessions made during enhanced interrogation as an example of why civilian courts are not suited for terrorist trials.

Earlier in the week, a defense motion for mistrial was denied [JURIST report] after an anonymous juror's note was read in court, indicating that the juror was alone in her views and was being attacked for her conclusions. The juror requested to be removed or replaced. The trial began in October with opening statements [JURIST report]. In July, the judge ruled that Ghailani is not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is fit to stand trial [JURIST report]. In June, Judge Lewis Kaplan denied a request from Ghailani to be exempt from prison strip searches, citing security concerns [JURIST report]. In May, Kaplan refused to dismiss criminal charges against Ghailani despite claims that he had been tortured in prison. Kaplan held that even if Ghailani was mistreated while in Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] custody, there was no connection between that and the current prosecution [JURIST report].

 

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