Military can reassign Gitmo detainee's lawyers

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 2:11 PM

The rights of a Guantanamo detainee facing trial in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa were not violated when the military took away his uniformed lawyers, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Ahmed Ghailani has no right to keep a pair of Marine and Air Force lawyers who represented him at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when their superior officers have decided they are needed elsewhere, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said.

"He is entitled to, and is receiving, representation of appointed counsel at public expense," Kaplan said in a written decision. "He is not entitled to choose particular government-paid counsel _ military or civilian."

The ruling affects Marine Col. Jeffrey Colwell and Air Force Maj. Richard Reiter, who had represented Ghailani in Guantanamo since late summer 2008.

Ghailani and the military officers had both requested that they be permitted to continue representing him. The military gave the officers permission to remain involved with the defense during a transition period ending Oct. 19.

Ghailani, a Tanzanian, became the first Guantanamo detainee to be taken to a U.S. civilian court for trial when he was brought to Manhattan in June to face charges in the Aug. 7, 1998, attacks at embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

U.S. authorities say Ghailani helped deliver TNT and oxygen tanks, often with a bicycle, before the bombings. Ghailani has denied knowing the dangerous ingredients would be used to make a bomb.

After the bombings, he left Africa. Military prosecutors said he later rose through al-Qaida ranks working as a document forger, a terrorism camp trainer and a bodyguard to Osama bin Laden.

Captured in Pakistan in 2004, he was labeled a high-value detainee by U.S. authorities and was transferred to the detention center at the U.S. naval base in Cuba in 2006.

Phone calls to defense lawyers for comment were not immediately returned.

The U.S. government announced last month that it would not seek the death penalty against Ghailani, who faces a trial scheduled to begin in September.