Guantanamo Bay Detainee Arrives in NYC for Criminal Prosecution on Terror Charges
A suspect in the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa arrived in New York early Tuesday morning, becoming the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to face criminal charges in the United States.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian national, has been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility since September 2006.
“After a thorough review of his case by the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force, Ghailani was recently referred for criminal prosecution in the Southern District of New York pursuant to a March 12, 2001 superseding indictment against him,” the Justice Department said in a news release.
The charges – 286 separate counts — stem from his alleged role as a bomb-builder in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombing of the embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, in which 224 people were killed, twelve of them Americans.
Aside from the separate murder charges, the indictment accuses Ghailani of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda to kill Americans anywhere in the world.
Ghailani, now in his 30s, was transferred from the custody of the Department of Defense to the Southern District of New York by the U.S. Marshals Service.
As of Tuesday morning, he was being held at New York City’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, which – according to the Justice Department — has housed numerous terror suspects over the years during their prosecutions in the Southern District of New York.
Ghailani is expected to make his initial appearance in Manhattan federal court later today.
“With his appearance in federal court today, Ahmed Ghailani is being held accountable for his alleged role in the bombing of U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the murder of 224 people,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
“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,” Holder added.
The Obama administration has announced plans to close the Gitmo detention center by the end of the year and bring some of the suspects to trial – “whenever feasible,” President Barack Obama said last month.
In a May 21 speech at the National Archives, Obama referred to Ghailani: “Preventing this detainee from coming to our shores would prevent his trial and conviction,” Obama said. “And after over a decade, it is time to finally see that justice is served, and that is what we intend to do.”
Obama says his administration is currently in the process of reviewing each of the detainee cases at Guantanamo to determine the appropriate policy for dealing with them.
Obama insists that U.S. federal courts are capable of handling the trials of terrorists, and in his National Archives speech, he pointed to several examples: “Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Center — he was convicted in our courts, and is serving a life sentence in U.S. prison,” Obama said. “Zaccarias Moussaoui has been identified as the 20th 9/11 hijacker – he was convicted in our courts, and he too is serving a life sentence in prison. If we can try those terrorists in our courts and hold them in our prisons, then we can do the same with detainees from Guantanamo.”
According to a Gallup poll released last week, by a better than 2-to-1 margin, Americans oppose the plan to close of the Guantanamo Bay prison and move some of the detainees to the United States.
Even some Democrats oppose the plan. “We don’t want them (former Gitmo detainees) around in the United States,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last month.
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