Al-Qaeda Bomber Ghailani Seeks Reversal of His Conviction

A lawyer for Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantanamo Bay detainee tried in a U.S. civilian court, asked a federal appeals court in New York to overturn his 2010 conviction for helping bomb U.S. Embassies in 1998.

Ghailani was sentenced to life in prison for being part of a cell of terrorists who bombed the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, in August 1998. The blasts killed 224 people, including 12 Americans and injured thousands.

He was captured in July 2004 in Pakistan, was held and questioned by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency for more than two years, the U.S. has said. In September 2006, he was moved to Guantanamo Bay by the Defense Department. In June 2009, the U.S. transferred him to federal court in New York for a civilian trial.

Defense lawyer Peter Quijano argued that the 57 months that Ghailani was held in U.S. detention prior to his 2010 trial violated speedy-trial laws and argued his client had been unfairly prejudiced by the delay.

“Time’s erosion affects not only memories but the integrity of a trial,” Quijano said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz, who was a prosecutor in the trial, argued that after Ghailani helped obtain a truck that delivered gas-filled industrial tanks to the Tanzanian site, he fled the day before the attacks with several high-level al-Qaeda members on a flight to Pakistan.

Bin Laden

He joined Osama bin Laden, working as his cook and bodyguard, trained at least 100 terrorists, and was “involved in the operational planning of al-Qaeda at its highest level,” Farbiarz said.

Ghailani was held and questioned by the CIA and later the Defense Department, during the period before his civilian trial, in order to obtain “operational intelligence” from him about the terror group and its plans, Farbiarz said.

“He flees with five co-conspirators and he’s hiding from 1998 to 2004,” Farbiarz said. “He’s not merely hiding out but working with the highest levels of al-Qaeda on operational matters. We can’t ignore the chain of events here.”

U.S. Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes said the court would issue a ruling at a later date.

The cases are U.S. v. Ghailani, 98-cr-01023, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan); U.S. v. Ghailani, 11-00320, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York).

To contact the reporter on this story: Patricia Hurtado in New York at pathurtado@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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