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Judge clears way for civilian trial of Guantánamo detainee

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani will stand trial in September for the 1998 truck bombing of the American Embassy in Tanzania despite Mr. Ghailani lawyers' objections that the US violated his speedy-trial rights. Ghailani has been detained by the US for at least five years.

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The judge ruled that the five-year delay did not undercut Ghailani’s ability to defend himself in the criminal case.

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Ghailani’s lawyers had argued that the delay made it harder to obtain witnesses for the defense so many years after the alleged crime. The judge rejected this argument.

“There is no persuasive evidence that the delay in this prosecution has impaired Ghailani’s ability to defend himself in any respect or significantly prejudiced him in any other way pertinent to the speedy-trial analysis,” Kaplan wrote.

At one point during his detention at Guantánamo, Ghailani was brought before a military tribunal and questioned under oath. The transcript of that proceeding has been released to the public. In it, Ghailani admits to delivering the TNT and gas canisters to the house where the Tanzania truck bomb was assembled. But he said he wasn’t aware that it was TNT and that a bomb was being built.

He denied being a member of Al Qaeda but admitted that after the bomb attacks he went to Afghanistan and trained in the use of weapons and explosives in an Al Qaeda training camp. He admitted that he worked for Al Qaeda forging passports. And he admitted that he met Osama bin Laden and other top Al Qaeda officials. But he denied swearing an oath of allegiance.

The New York indictment relates to the Aug. 7, 1998, embassy bombing in Tanzania. Eleven individuals died and 85 were injured when a truck bomb packed with TNT and gas canisters detonated. At the same time, a similar truck bomb exploded outside the American Embassy in Kenya, killing 213. Al Qaeda later claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Ghailani was named in a December 1998 indictment as a co-conspirator with Mr. Bin Laden and others for allegedly waging a campaign of terror against the United States.

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