The low profile trial of the first Guantanamo Bay detainee in civilian court ended late Wednesday with the jury finding the accused terrorist guilty on just one count, a result sure to fuel criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of terrorism cases.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani stood charged by the Justice Department of conspiring to kill Americans in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
After seven days of deliberations, a jury found Ghailani guilty of just one count of conspiracy, acquitting him of multiple other counts including murder and murder conspiracy, said the Associated Press.
Reached by TPM, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd had no immediate comment but said DOJ would have a statement shortly.*
A judge had ruled to exclude testimony from a witness because investigators only learned about the witness after the suspected terrorist underwent coercive interrogation in a secret CIA prison. Liz Cheney blamed that ruling on the Obama administration’s decision to try Ghailani in federal court. The Justice Department ultimately decided not to appeal the decision because doing so would cause “a delay of uncertain, and perhaps significant, length.”
Ghailani was accused of serving as a bodyguard, cook and document forger for Osama bin Laden. Captured in Pakistan in 2004, he was reportedly held in a secret CIA prison for two years before being transferred to Gitmo in 2006. He was sent to New York City for his trial in the summer of 2009. He allegedly acknowledged meeting bin Laden and receiving al Qaeda military training, but denied being a member of al Qaeda.
Late Update: “We respect the jury’s verdict and are pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence for his role in the embassy bombings,” Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.