Former Gitmo detainee Ahmed Ghalfan Ghailani was convicted in civilian court on one count of conspiring to destroy buildings and property in the 1998 terrorist bombings of the United States Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Expect conservatives to make much of Ghailani being acquitted on hundreds of other charges, but he still faces 20 years to life in prison.
The problem in gaining convictions was the way he was detained without due process.
He helped to buy the Nissan Atlas truck that was used to carry the bomb, and gas tanks that were placed inside the truck to intensify the blast, the evidence showed. He also stored an explosive detonator in an armoire he used, and his cellphone became the “operational phone” for the plotters in the weeks leading up to the attacks, prosecutors said.
But because of the unusual circumstances of Mr. Ghailani’s case — after he was captured in Pakistan in 2004, he was held for nearly five years in a so-called black site run by the Central Intelligence Agency and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the prosecution faced significant legal hurdles getting his case to trial and then winning the conviction.
We’d do a lot better gaining convictions in these trials if we didn’t torture suspects.
Just last month, for example, on the eve of trial, prosecutors suffered a major setback when the judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court, barred them from using an important witness against Mr. Ghailani because the government had learned about the man through Mr. Ghailani’s interrogation while he was in C.I.A. custody, where his lawyers say he was tortured.
The witness, Hussein Abebe, would have testified that he had sold Mr. Ghailani the large quantities of TNT used to blow up the embassy in Dar es Salaam, prosecutors told the judge, calling him “a giant witness for the government.”
Statements from Ghailani, himself, were also deemed inadmissible because of the coercive way they were obtained.