Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No easy answers

Ahmed Ghailani was convicted today of one count of conspiracy to damage or destroy US property:

The first former Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in federal criminal court was found not guilty on Wednesday on all but one of the 285 counts he faced for his role in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.

The verdict will likely kill the already fading prospect of putting other Guantanamo detainees on trial in U.S. civilian courts.

After deliberating for five days, a jury of six men and six women found Ahmed Ghailani, 36, guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property, but acquitted him of all 276 counts of murder and attempted murder, as well as other conspiracy charges.

Ghailani, a native of Tanzania, was sent to New York for prosecution in June 2009 in what the Obama administration hoped would be the first case in a series of federal prosecutions of Guantanamo detainees, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four co-conspirators accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.[...]

Ghailani still could be sentenced to life in prison, and faces a minimum of 20 years, according to the Justice Department. But the verdict was a blow to administration officials who were quietly confident that Ghailani would be found guilty on all charges, despite the judge's ruling against the government on a key issue. Just last week, a senior administration official said a not guilty verdict would be a "disaster" for the administration's Guantanamo policy.

The question as to whether detainees suspected of terrorism should be treated as international criminals, prisoners of war, or some hybrid combination of the two is a difficult one. Today's results make it likely that further trials in civilian criminal courts will be avoided--but what should be done with potentially dangerous detainees--and what should be done with the ones who end up being innocent, as some have? This is the sort of situation which has, I think, no easy answers.


c matt said...

The term civil court is a bit confusing - he is being tried in a criminal court vs. a military one. Civil court usually refers to private litigants fighting over noncriminal matters.

Anyway, yes, it is a bit of a conundrum. Still, if the government cannot make its case in front of 12 average citizens, how strong of a case could it have been? I would think if it is true justice we are looking for, having a more open system and a citizen jury is probably more appropriate. It may not be popular, but it has served us well over the years for the most part.

Jason said...

Not sure why it's such a difficult issue. Treat terrorists like their pirate brethren have always been treated. Enemies of humankind. Lots of precedent.

Anonymous said...

This results is an example of "justice delayed is justice denied."

The guy has been held for close to nine years. Witnesses have died. Details have been forgotten.

If anything, this is an argument for getting the case together thoroughly but as quickly as possible, so the trial is complete.

We don't need to come up with a new court system to try potential murderers. Terrorism is a crime.
We need swift trials as our constitution calls for.

Guantanamo is the direct cause of this horrifying result, IMO.


Red Cardigan said...

C Matt, I didn't mean to be unclear; I wrote "civilian" courts, not civil--meaning, not military. I'll add in the word "criminal" to make sure it's not too confusing.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

The verdict means the jury found evidence he was involved in plotting and planning the crimes charges, but not actually carrying them out. The sentence is exactly the same. I don't see that we have anything to worry about here.