Constitutional Law

1st Civilian Trial of Gitmo Prisoner Will Be Ghailani's in N.Y.

Countering critics’ claims that it is too dangerous to transport terrorism suspects to the United States for trial in civilian courts, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the first such trial of a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba will be held in New York.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian who was previously federally charged with crimes concerning the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies there and in Kenya, will be tried in New York concerning these allegations, according to the New York Times and Reuters.

Detained in Pakistan in 2004, Ghailani reportedly is one of 14 “high-value detainees” transferred from secret CIA prisons to Gitmo in September 2006. He has been held at the U.S. Navy facility since then as an so-called enemy combatant.

President Barack Obama, who is standing firm on his plan to close the detention facility despite congressional opposition, said in a impassioned speech today that such trials do not threaten national security and that terrorism suspects can safely be held in “supermax” civilian prisons, reports the New York Times in another article. “We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and keeps us safe,” the president said.

However, former vice president Dick Cheney, in a competing speech today, contended otherwise. Defending both the detention without trial of alleged enemy combatants there and harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects by the CIA, he characterized the planned shutdown of Gitmo as political grandstanding, reports the Politico.

“The administration has found that it’s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo,” said Cheney. “But it’s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America’s national security.”

Additional coverage:

New York Times: “Cheney Repudiates Obama on Terrorism Policy”

Associated Press: “Hard cases, hard decisions at Guantanamo “

Washington Post: “Guantanamo Inmate to Be Tried in New York Court”

Miami Herald: “Guantánamo detainee to face terror trial in New York”

Independent: “Obama and Cheney clash on future of Guantanamo” (2008): “New Embassy Bombing Charges Filed Against Gitmo Detainee”

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