US judge upholds Ghailani conviction

The Tanzanian man is 1st Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court.

New York: A US judge on Friday upheld the conviction of Ahmed Ghailani after the Tanzanian man was found guilty of just one from 286 charges related to the 1988 bombings of two US embassies in Africa.

Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected a defence motion to overturn that one count -- conspiracy to damage or destroy US property -- saying Ghailani had demonstrated "knowing and willing participation" in the truck bomb plot.

Ghailani, 36, faces a prison term up to 20 years when he goes to sentencing in New York federal court on January 25.

The trial of the Tanzanian national, who has been held in Guantanamo Bay and in CIA secret prisons prior to his transfer to New York, has been seen as a test of President Barack Obama`s aim to turn terrorism suspects over to civilian courts.

His controversial trial ended with the jury rejecting all but one of the huge array of charges in the al Qaeda-organised bombings that killed 224 people in Tanzania and Kenya.

In his 56-page ruling, Kaplan said: "Ghailani`s conviction was supported by sufficient evidence... There certainly was no manifest injustice requiring a new trial. The defendant`s motion for a judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, for a new trial is denied."

During the trial, prosecutors painted Ghailani as a keen member of a local al Qaeda cell in Tanzania and participant in the plot to build two truck bombs and ram them into the two embassies.

His defence argued -- apparently with overwhelming success -- that he only acted as a dupe of more sophisticated associates and that he never knew his actions would lead to bombings.

However, even his own attorneys did not deny that he took part in the purchase of a truck and gas tanks that were used in the deadly attacks.

The trial highlighted a bitter argument in Washington over where to put on trial and imprison terrorism suspects.

A pledge by President Barack Obama to shut down Guantanamo and let civilian courts take over such cases has been put indefinitely on hold.

Bureau Report