Former Guantanamo detainee and "terror suspect" Ahmed Ghailani was found guilty of conspiracy for the role he played in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Ghailani, who had been charged with 285 counts was acquitted on all counts except the count of conspiracy.
Ghailani was the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in the federal justice system. His trial and, in many ways, the outcome of his trial was a victory for advocates who had been suggesting that civilian trials should be utilized instead of military commissions.
The Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Security Project released this statement on Ghailani's conviction:
"This case should put to rest any unfounded fears that our federal justice system cannot conduct fair, safe and effective trials in terrorism cases. The jury heard the evidence and delivered a verdict that, unlike military commissions trials, we can trust. We should be proud of a system that isn't set up to simply rubberstamp the government's case no matter how little reliable evidence there may be. Federal courts are not only the right place but the most effective place to prosecute terrorism suspects."
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has led many legal battles over Guantanamo throughout the past eight years, were less celebratory:
"CCR questions the ability of anyone who is Muslim to receive a truly fair trial in any American judicial forum post-9/11. Both the military commission system and federal criminal trials have serious flaws. However, on balance the Ghailani verdict shows that federal criminal trials are far superior to military commissions for the simple yet fundamental reason that they prohibit evidence obtained by torture. If anyone is unsatisfied with Ghailani's acquittal on 284 counts, they should blame the CIA agents who tortured him."- Advertisement -
Yet, their statement indicated a level of satisfaction: evidence obtained by torture was not allowed to be used against Ghailani during his trial.
Juan Cole, who blogs at Informed Comment, briefly recapped how "Ghailani was waterboarded, i.e. tortured, into revealing his relationship with Hussein Abebe, who in turn provided the most damaging testimony against Ghailani.":
"On Oct. 5, Judge Lewis Kaplan [pdf] excluded Abebe's testimony, on the grounds that it was a a fruit of a poisonous tree, i.e. was only available to the prosecution because Bush had had Ghailani tortured (and maybe had had Abebe tortured, as well!)
That was why Ghailani could not be convicted of murder, as he from all accounts ought to have been. Had his connection to Abebe been discovered by ordinary questioning or by good police work, then the latter could have freely taken the witness stand. In fact, it seems to me very likely that Abebe would in fact have been discovered in other ways, from the record, e.g., of Ghailani's cell phone calls, or even just from his own account of his activities."- Advertisement -
Republicans are up in arms that evidence obtained by torture was not allowed. They are renewing their attacks on using the rule of law to bring terror suspects to justice.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), whose opinion matters because he is the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, declared in response, "I am disgusted at the total miscarriage of justice today in Manhattan's federal civilian court...This tragic verdict demonstrates the absolute insanity of the Obama Administration's decision to try al-Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts."