Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ahmed Ghailani, Gitmo detainee, acquitted of all but 1 charge in NY

Ahmed Ghailani, Gitmo detainee, acquitted of all but 1 charge in NY

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 17, 2010; 7:04 PM

The first former Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in federal criminal court was found not guilty on Wednesday on all but one of the 285 counts he faced for his role in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.

The verdict will likely kill the already fading prospect of putting other Guantanamo detainees on trial in U.S. civilian courts.

After deliberating for five days, a jury of six men and six women found Ahmed Ghailani, 36, guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property, but acquitted him of all 276 counts of murder and attempted murder, as well as other conspiracy charges.

Ghailani, a native of Tanzania, was sent to New York for prosecution in June 2009 in what the Obama administration hoped would be the first case in a series of federal prosecutions of Guantanamo detainees, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four co-conspirators accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

That plan has run into fierce, cross-party opposition in Congress and New York. The failure to convict Ghailani on the most serious terrorism charges will bolster the arguments of those who say that the military prison at Guantanamo Bay should be kept open, both to host military commissions for some prisoners and hold others indefinitely under the laws of war.

Ghailani still could be sentenced to life in prison, and faces a minimum of 20 years, according to the Justice Department. But the verdict was a blow to administration officials who were quietly confident that Ghailani would be found guilty on all charges, despite the judge's ruling against the government on a key issue. Just last week, a senior administration official said a not guilty verdict would be a "disaster" for the administration's Guantanamo policy.

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