The first former Guantánamo detainee to be tried in federal court, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property. He was acquitted of the other 280 charges, all stemming from the 2008 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Tar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 244 people, including 12 Americans. Ghailani could be sentenced to 20 years to life.
This first case of a detainee being tried in a federal court exposed many of the difficulties that the Obama administration will face if it wants to close the Guantánamo detention facility and try the detainees in federal courts, rather than military commissions. Unlike the Commission that tried detainees such as Omar Khadr, which used the flexible evidentiary standards of the military commission system, prosecutors in federal courts must adhere to strict evidentiary rules. Hussein Abebe is a government witness who would have testified that Ghailani had purchased the TNT used to blow up the Tanzanian embassy. However, interrogators in a CIA black site, one in which Mr. Ghailani was being held, found the identity of Abebe while being what defense attorneys say was torture. Additionally, the government chose not to introduce statements made by Mr. Ghailani while in CIA custody and while at Guantánamo, statements the prosecution said amount “to a confession,” because the statements were “coerced” and “inadmissible,” according to the defense.
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