Guantanamo Detainee Sentenced to Life in Prison
VOA News 25 January 2011
The first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a U.S. civilian court has been sentenced to life in prison.
A federal judge imposed the term Tuesday on Tanzanian Ahmed Ghailani. The judge rejected calls for leniency by defense lawyers who said Ghailani was tortured in CIA custody, and that he provided U.S. officials with valuable intelligence.
Ghailani was sentenced for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Those blasts killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
A federal jury in November convicted Ghailani of one count of conspiracy to destroy U.S. property, while acquitting him of 284 other charges.
His case in New York City has been seen as a test of President Barack Obama's approach to try terrorism suspects in U.S. civilian courts.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the sentencing shows the strength of the American justice system in holding terrorists accountable for their actions.
Ghailani was held by the CIA for two years in Pakistan before being transferred to Guantanamo.
Some U.S. lawmakers criticized the November verdict. Republican Congressman Peter King said it was a "miscarriage of justice."
King and other lawmakers argue that accused terrorists should be treated as wartime enemies, and should be tried by military tribunals instead of civilian courts.
Ghailani was accused of joining a plot that led to the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. Prosecutors said Ghailani conspired to carry out the attacks by purchasing a truck and gas cylinders. His lawyers did not deny the allegations, but argued that Ghailani had no prior knowledge of the plans of the al-Qaida organizers.
Before handing down Tuesday's sentence, Judge Lewis Kaplan said Ghailani knew that people would be killed as a result of his actions.
He called the embassy attacks "horrific," and said any suffering Ghailani experienced at the hands of the CIA pales in comparison to the suffering he caused the victims of the bombings.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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