Detainee seeks indictment dismissal after delays

AP News
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Posted: Dec 01, 2009 8:25 PM

Citing a long wait for trial, lawyers for a Guantanamo detainee have asked a judge to dismiss charges against him in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

The lawyers for Ahmed Ghailani made the arguments in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and released Tuesday.

They said their client's case raised the question of whether national security can trump an indicted defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial.

"We respectfully submit that the answer is empathetically and without qualification, `No,'" the lawyers wrote.

Janice Oh, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in Manhattan, said the office had no comment.

Authorities allege Ghailani was a bomb-maker, document forger and aide to Osama bin Laden. The attacks in August 1998 at embassies in Tanzania and Kenya killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

Ghailani, who was brought to the United States in June to face trial, is the first Guantanamo detainee to be brought before a U.S. federal court rather than a military tribunal. The Tanzanian, captured in Pakistan in 2004, was held in Guantanamo since 2006.

Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, would be moved along with four other detainees from a Guantanamo Bay detention center to New York to face a civilian federal trial.

In court papers, lawyers for Ghailani said the physical and psychological abusive treatment he sustained while in custody at CIA locations outside the United States before his transfer to Guantanamo make it even more important that the charges he faces be dismissed.

"Our government made the conscious and deliberate decision to sequester him in solitary confinement in secret prisons for over two years, subjecting him to what are euphemistically referred to as `Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,' even though he had a pending indictment and had been compliant from the onset of his detention,'" the lawyers wrote.

They said Ghailani differed from other Guantanamo detainees because he was already under indictment in the embassy bombing case when he was detained and thus the United States had an obligation to bring him before a judicial officer as quickly as possible, as U.S. law requires.

The lawyers wrote that the United States sought to turn Ghailani into an intelligence asset for national security reasons and did not inform him of his rights until four and a half years after his capture.

"These are not insignificant political goals, but like any political choice there are consequences," the lawyers wrote.

The lawyers said the government further complicated the case when it asked Ghailani to testify on his own behalf at a March 2007 tribunal hearing without providing him with a lawyer.

They said the testimony came after he had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques for at least two years, leaving him helpless and causing him to make numerous potentially inculpatory statements.

The lawyers said the release of those statements publicly have put him "in a position where his ability to assist counsel may be jeopardized due to his fear that this life may now be in jeopardy were he ever to gain release."