Do criminal defendants really have the presumption of innocence in the United States? Defense attorney Peter Quijano, thinks so. His client, former Gitmo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, was found not guilty Wednesday on 224 murder charges relating to the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya, Tanzania.. He was convicted of one count of conspiracy. Quijano called the verdict "a reaffirmation that this nation's judicial system is the greatest ever devised ... It is truly a system of laws and not men," he said.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was convicted as the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in civilian court. Ghailani was tried for conspiracy to destroy buildings and U.S. property in the 1998 terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the murder charges.
Though the U.S. Attorney's office was clearly disappointed with the Gitmo detainee verdict, they did not quarrel with it. "We respect the jury's verdict and are pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence for his role in the embassy bombings," said U.S. Attorney Prett Bharara, CNN reports.
Human rights advocates said that the verdict gives legitimacy to the U.S. justice system.
"The greater relevance has been the debate in this country of whether [alleged] terrorists held in Guantanamo can effectively be tried in a federal district court even though there may be problems with government witnesses," said Scott Silliman, executive director for the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security.
Of course not everyone believes that trying terrorism suspects in civilian court is the right way to go. Daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney, was highly critical of the Obama administration, saying he "rolled the dice in a time of war."
- Ahmed Ghailani, Gitmo detainee, acquitted of all but 1 charge in N.Y. (Washington Post)
- Conspiracy (FindLaw)
- What is a conspiracy? (FindLaw)