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March 31, 2008, New York – The U.S. government referred capital military commission charges today against Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian man who was transferred to Guantánamo from secret CIA detention in September 2006. Mr. Ghailani was in the CIA interrogation program for over two years and is accused of playing a role in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. A Manhattan Federal court indicted him 10 years ago. The Defense Department has sworn charges against fourteen other detainees; today’s charge is the seventh case seeking the death penalty.
In response, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:
“For the past six years, the United States government has refused to conduct traditional criminal trials for Guantanamo detainees suspected of wrongdoing. Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani has been under indictment in a Manhattan Federal court for 10 years, yet the government chose to charge him before its deeply flawed Military Commissions.
Previous bombing cases have been successfully prosecuted in criminal court not only in Spain and the United Kingdom, but in the United States as well, with convicted conspirators currently serving life sentences.
The only reason the government is now militarizing these criminal acts is to hide what the CIA is doing in its interrogation program behind the secrecy of the Commissions, which can allow the use of secret evidence as well as evidence obtained through torture. The entire Commission process is under the influence of the Pentagon and the Executive rather than an independent judiciary. In addition, the Bush administration is using the Military Commissions as political theater in order to influence the presidential elections.
If the administration believes Mr. Ghailani has committed a crime, he should be charged and tried in a lawful proceeding worthy of our country.
No Military Commission can ever achieve justice. Regardless of the results, no one will ever have confidence in the outcome. The United States has nothing legitimate to gain from prosecuting prisoners in military commissions at Guantanamo and a great deal to lose.”
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet there with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR represents Mohammed Al Qahtani, one of seven to have death penalty charges referred to the Military Commissions. CCR has also been responsible for organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro-bono lawyers across the country in order to defend the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have been represented. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the Supreme Court on December 5, 2007; we await a decision this spring.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.