First Gitmo detainee lands in US

June 9, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Jun 9 – The first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be transferred to US soil arrived early Tuesday in New York to face terrorism charges, the Justice Department said.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an Al-Qaeda suspect from Tanzania held at Guantanamo since 2006, arrived at the Metropolitan Correctional Center to face charges over his alleged involvement in the 1998 bombing of two US embassies in Africa.

He was expected to make his first appearance in a Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.

"With his appearance in federal court today, Ahmed Ghailani is being held accountable for his alleged role in the bombing of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the murder of 224 people," Holder said in a statement.

"The Justice Department has a long history of securely detaining and successfully prosecuting terror suspects through the criminal justice system, and we will bring that experience to bear in seeking justice in this case."

Ghailani faces 286 counts of murder, conspiracy to murder, bomb and maim, and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against US nationals, charges for which he could receive the death penalty.

According to the indictment from March 2001, Ghailani also conspired with Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other Qaeda members to kill Americans.

Expectations had grown in recent weeks that Ghailani would be the first Guantanamo inmate to be brought to US shores and tried in a civilian court.

President Barack Obama has vowed to close by January 2010 the Guantanamo detention center which still houses about 240 "war on terror" inmates, most of whom have been detained since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The US leader hopes other countries will take in some of the 50 detainees so far cleared for release. An Algerian national has been taken in by France, while an Ethiopian-born British resident was returned to Britain, but finding homes for the others has proven to be difficult.

Many leaders of countries who called for the facility to be shut down have refused to harbor its former inmates, and the US Congress has opposed moves to let them stay in the United States.

Obama is under intense pressure to decide the fate of the detainees from 30 nations at the camp, many of whom have not been charged.

Some may be impossible to try, as their evidence may be inadmissible in court due to interrogation methods branded by critics as torture, but may also be deemed too dangerous to release.

Last week Canada turned down Washington’s requests to take in Guantanamo detainees, becoming the third US ally to put a snag in efforts to shutter the infamous prison.

Ottawa last month turned down a US request to take in three of 17 Chinese Muslim detainees cleared for release from the US naval base in southern Cuba because of "significant security concerns," Canadian immigration ministry spokesman Alykhan Velshi told AFP.

Germany and Australia also have been urged to take in Guantanamo inmates, but both have appeared reticent.


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