First Guantanamo Detainee To Be Tried in U.S.


NEW YORK—As the controversial detention center at Guantanamo Bay prepares to close, the first “high value” detainee will go to trial in New York City.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the American Embassy bombings that took place in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, will be the first Guantanamo detainee brought to the U.S., and the first to face trial in a civilian criminal court.

The bombings to which Ghailani was tied killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured thousands. Authorities claim that he helped plan the attack and delivered the explosives, and have also connected him with a vehicle used in the bombings. Military prosecutors allege that Ghailani later worked for al-Qaida as a document forger, trainer at a terror camp and bodyguard for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Four others have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison after having been tried for participation in the embassy attacks.

Ghailani was one of several so-called “high value” suspects that was supposed to be brought to trial in the United States before the 9/11 terrorism attacks on the World Trade Center. Trying Ghailani, say prosecutors, may help them avoid legal challenges surrounding his detention.

Yet lawmakers and others have expressed concern about bringing Guantanamo detainees to United States soil for trial, even if they are heavily guarded.

President Obama has announced his plan to close the detention center, which is located on a U.S. Naval base in Cuba, by January of next year, and is facing pressure from both sides of the political aisle. Republicans generally want to maintain Guantanamo and keep it open, whereas Democrats are pushing Obama to show them his plan for closing the base before they approve financing.

Announcing the president’s decision to bring the alleged terrorist and al-Qaida member to trial, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “The administration is committed to keeping the American people safe and upholding the rule of law, and by closing Guatanamo and bringing terrorists housed there to justice, we will make our nation stronger and safer.”

Ghailani, who is originally from Tanzania, was captured in Pakistan in 2004.


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