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Judge clears way for civilian trial of Guantánamo detainee

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Judge Kaplan ruled that such a choice is not required. “The delay in this case did not materially infringe upon any interest protected by the right to a speedy trial,” he said in a 46-page ruling.

The action clears the way for Ghailani’s trial on Sept. 27.

The decision is significant in part because the judge refused to consider the legality of the harsh tactics used during Ghailani’s interrogation by the CIA. Lawyers had argued that their client suffered significant physical and psychological harm during the ordeal.

“This is not the time or the place to pass judgment on whether those techniques, in and of themselves, were appropriate or legal,” Kaplan said.

The question, the judge said, was whether the CIA’s treatment undercut the values protected by the Constitution’s speedy-trial clause.

The speedy-trial requirement is designed in part to prevent the government from gaining an advantage by delaying the start of a trial.

Kaplan said that Ghailani, as a captured enemy combatant, would have been detained by the military during the entire disputed period anyway. So the fact that he was in CIA custody enduring harsh interrogations or detained at Guantánamo was not a significant enough factor.

The judge ruled that the five-year delay did not undercut Ghailani’s ability to defend himself in the criminal case.

Ghailani’s lawyers had argued that the delay made it harder to obtain witnesses for the defense so many years after the alleged crime. The judge rejected this argument.

“There is no persuasive evidence that the delay in this prosecution has impaired Ghailani’s ability to defend himself in any respect or significantly prejudiced him in any other way pertinent to the speedy-trial analysis,” Kaplan wrote.

At one point during his detention at Guantánamo, Ghailani was brought before a military tribunal and questioned under oath. The transcript of that proceeding has been released to the public. In it, Ghailani admits to delivering the TNT and gas canisters to the house where the Tanzania truck bomb was assembled. But he said he wasn’t aware that it was TNT and that a bomb was being built.

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