By Peter Finn
Tuesday, June 9, 2009 9:23 AM
The Obama administration for the first time has transferred a
U.S. Marshals took custody of Ahmed Ghailani, a Tanzanian, at the military prison in Cuba and moved him to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, officials said. He is expected to appear in federal court later today.
Ghailani faces multiple charges and, if convicted, could face the death penalty for his role in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
"With his appearance in federal court today, Ahmed Ghailani is being held accountable for his alleged role in the bombing of
The decision to move Ghailani lays down an important marker for the administration, which wants to shut the military prison but has faced congressional resistance to the transfer of any
Ghailani was indicted in New York before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and four of his named co-conspirators have already been tried and convicted and are serving life sentences in a super-maximum security prison in Colorado.
The Justice Department, sensitive to criticism from opponents of Obama's plan to shut the military prison, noted in a news release today that there are 216 inmates in federal prisons who have connections to international terrorism and that there has never been an escape from the supermax facility in Florence, Colo. Thirty-three convicted terrorists are held there, including shoe-bomber Richard Reid and Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Justice Department noted.
In a speech last month, Obama signaled that Ghailani's transfer was imminent and that "after over a decade, it is time to finally see that justice is served, and that is what we intend to do." The decision to transfer him to
Federal prosecutors allege that Ghailani obtained bomb materials, scouted the embassy in the Tanzanian capital, and escorted an Egyptian suicide bomber from
Shortly before the bombings, Ghailani and a number of alleged co-conspirators fled to
Ghailani, a former Islamic cleric, was captured in July 2004 after a 10-hour shootout in the Pakistani city of
Ghailani's case will test the government's ability to secure a conviction despite legal questions surrounding the harsh interrogation techniques employed by the CIA during the questioning of high-value detainees. Although the government is likely to attempt to rely only on evidence secured long before Ghailani's capture, defense lawyers will almost certainly attempt to introduce evidence about his treatment at the hands of the government. Unlike other detainees, there have been no disclosures about which specific interrogation techniques Ghailani might have undergone.
In an interview earlier this year, Ghailani's military attorney, Marine Lt. Col. Jeffrey Colwell, said his client is eager to get to federal court.
"I know that he wants closure, resolution of whatever is going to happen to him," Colwell said. "Will there be complications with everything that has happened since his capture? Probably. But I think those need to be vetted out."
At a military hearing following his transfer to
"I would like to apologize to the
doing, but I helped them."
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs