- Jan 30, 2008
Gitmo detainee acquitted of all but 1 charge in NY
By TOM HAYS, Associated Press Tom Hays, Associated Press 39 mins ago
NEW YORK The first Guantanamo detainee to face a civilian trial was acquitted Wednesday of all but one of the hundreds of charges he helped unleash death and destruction on two U.S. embassies in 1998 a mixed result for what's been viewed as a terror test case.
A federal jury convicted Ahmed Ghailani of one count of conspiracy to destroy U.S. property and acquitted him on more than 280 other counts, including one murder count for each of the 224 people killed in the embassy bombings. The anonymous jurors deliberated over seven days.
Ghailani, 36, rubbed his face, smiled and hugged his lawyers after the jurors filed out of the courtroom.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan had thanked the jury, saying the outcome showed that justice "can be rendered calmly, deliberately and fairly by ordinary people people who are not beholden to any government, even this one."
In a statement, Department of Justice spokesman Matthew Miller said U.S. officials "respect the jury's verdict" and are "pleased" that Ghailani faces a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison at sentencing on Jan. 25.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that Ghailani "will face, and we will seek, the maximum sentence of life without parole."
Defense attorney Peter Quijano welcomed the acquittals. He said the one conviction would be appealed.
"We still truly believe he is innocent of all these charges," Quijano said. Still, Ghailani, who could have faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted of some of the other counts, "believed he got a fair trial," he added.
Prosecutors had branded Ghailani a cold-blooded terrorist. The defense portrayed him as a clueless errand boy, exploited by senior al-Qaida operatives and framed by evidence from contaminated crime scenes.
The trial, at a lower Manhattan courthouse, had been viewed as a test for President Barack Obama's administration's aim of putting other terror detainees including self-professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on trial on U.S. soil.