New York: The judge in the first civilian
trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee barred a witness from
testifying, handing out a major blow to the US government`s
effort to pursue cases with evidence obtained through harsh
CIA interrogations in overseas jails.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who has spent the last six
years in "black sites" and Guantanamo Bay, is accused of
participating in the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania in 1998, which killed 224 people.
Noting that he was aware of the dangers the world
faced, Judge Lewis Kaplan said, "the Constitution is the rock
upon which our nation rests."
"We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but
when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do
less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which
we stand," he added.
The first day of trial, which didn`t take off,
also brought home the difficulties of conducting trials for
Gitmo detainees in civilian courts?a problem that the Obama
administration has been struggling with.
Attorney General Eric Holder`s wanted to prosecute
al Qaeda Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 plotters in New
York City but the proposal met with great resistance from New
Yorkers especially due to the potential safety hazard it could
prove to be since the trials could last for years.
The fate of KSM and his fellow prisoners remains
unresolved. Speaking in Washington, Holder expressed
confidence that Ghailani`s case could proceed in a regular
court and didn`t have to be taken back to a military tribunal.
"Courts have shown an ability to handle these kinds
of cases over the years," Holder said.
"I think it`s too early to say that at this point
the Ghailani matter is not going to be successful," he added.
Ghilani`s lawyers, who have argued that all
evidence obtained from torture should be inadmissible,
welcomed today`s order.
"This case will be tried upon lawful evidence, not
torture, not coercion" said Defence Attorney Peter Quijano
outside the Manhattan courthouse.