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Ahmed Ghailani gets life sentence for Al Qaeda bombing of US embassies

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In a largely symbolic move, the judge also ordered Ghailani to pay restitution of $33 million to the US government and relatives of victims of the attack.

Ghailani was convicted in November of a single charge in his 285-count indictment – conspiracy to destroy buildings or property of the United States. The verdict included a special finding that Ghailani’s conduct caused at least one death.

But the jury, deliberating after a five-week trial, acquitted Ghailani of 284 other charges, including 273 counts of murder or attempted murder.

Critiques of his civilian-court trial

The case marked the first trial of a Guantánamo detainee in a US civilian court. It was viewed as a test case to determine whether other military prisoners at Guantánamo – including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – would be tried in a federal court rather than by a special military commission at Guantánamo.

The case highlighted the challenges of affording full constitutional protections to terrorism suspects who were once held in secret detention overseas and subjected to harsh interrogation tactics by US intelligence officials.

A key government witness was barred from testifying at the trial that he sold TNT to Ghailani. Kaplan ruled that the testimony must be excluded because the witness’s identity was revealed to the US by Ghailani during coercive interrogation sessions. Defense lawyers said their client was subjected to “torture.”

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