US embassy bombing man faces sentencing

January 25, 2011 12:00 am

, NEW YORK, Jan 25 – The first terrorism suspect to be moved from Guantanamo to a US civilian court is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday after a controversial trial over his role in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies.

Ahmed Ghailani, 36, faces a prison term of up to 20 years after being found guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy US property during the truck bombings that killed 224 people at the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

The Tanzanian national\’s trial in New York was a test of President Barack Obama\’s policy of aiming to close the internationally criticized Guantanamo Bay center and to move terrorism suspects into the civilian justice system.

But his controversial trial ended with the surprising verdict of guilty on just one of 286 charges related to the embassy attacks.

Last week, Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected a defense motion to overturn that one count, saying Ghailani had demonstrated "knowing and willing participation" in the truck bomb plot.

In his 56-page ruling, Kaplan said: "Ghailani\’s conviction was supported by sufficient evidence… There certainly was no manifest injustice requiring a new trial. The defendant\’s motion for a judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, for a new trial is denied."

During the trial, prosecutors painted Ghailani as a keen member of a local Al-Qaeda cell in Tanzania and participant in the plot to build two truck bombs and ram them into the two embassies.

His defense argued that he only acted as a dupe of more sophisticated associates and that he never knew his actions would lead to bombings.

However, even his own attorneys did not deny that he took part in the purchase of a truck and gas tanks that were used in the deadly attacks.

The trial highlighted a bitter argument in Washington over where to put on trial and imprison terrorism suspects.

Human rights advocates said Ghailiani could not be tried fairly because he had been mistreated in secret CIA prisons and then held in Guantanamo.

Opponents of Obama\’s ambitious, but now largely stalled plan to close the military detention center said Ghailani did not deserve the same judicial protections as US citizens.


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