Terror case: Is one conviction and 284 acquittals a success?
Ahmed Ghailani's acquittal on 284 of 285 counts revives criticism of the Obama administration's policy to try terror cases in civilian courts. White House hails the single conviction as a victory.
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It remains unclear whether President Obama and Mr. Holder are still interested in bringing Mr. Mohammed to the US for trial. Other options include a military commission or simply continuing to hold Mohammed without charge at Guantánamo as an unlawful combatant.Skip to next paragraph
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Criticism of the Ghailani trial wasn’t exclusively from Republicans. Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia said Thursday the verdict “affirms what I and others have said from the beginning: those charged with crimes of war and those who have been determined to be dangerous law-of-war detainees do not belong in our courts, our prisons, or our country.”
He added: “I again call on President Obama to use the new military commission system that is in place to try the terrorist detainees currently held at the Guantánamo detention facilities.”
The Ghailani trial was being closely watched because he was the first Guantánamo detainee transferred by the Obama administration from the detention camp in Cuba to stand trial in a civilian court. As a criminal defendant, Ghailani was entitled to full constitutional protections.
Analysts saw the trial as a test case for the Obama administration’s efforts to demonstrate that the federal court system can be an effective tool in the fight against terrorism. The administration has also expressed interest in showing the world that the US judicial system is capable of offering a fair trial – even to suspected Al Qaeda terrorists.
'Legal system works'
Supporters of using civilian courts said Ghailani’s lopsided verdict was proof the trial was fair.
“This trial shows that our legal system works,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) of New York said. “Despite the negative predictions of some, the trial was effective and transparent, with no security problems in the heart of Manhattan.”
“The world has seen that the American criminal justice system is both fair and relentless, just as it has been shown to be hundreds of times before, when terrorists were tried and convicted under both the Bush and Obama administrations,” he said.
Ghailani’s conviction stems from his alleged role in two simultaneous truck bomb attacks on Aug. 7, 1998, against the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The blasts killed 224 people.