Ghailani Trial Underscores Federal Courts' Ability To Prosecute Terrorism Suspects, Says ACLU

January 25, 2011 6:05 pm

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Trial Of Former Guantánamo Detainee Comes To Completion

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NEW YORK – As the trial of former Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani came to a completion with his sentencing today in a federal court in New York, the American Civil Liberties Union called on the Obama administration to prosecute all terrorism suspects in the federal courts, and not to bow to pressure from within and outside Congress to try them in the failed commissions system.

Ghailani, the first Guantánamo detainee to be prosecuted in the federal justice system, was found guilty in November of charges arising out of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and sentenced today to life in prison.

News reports indicate that the Obama administration plans to revive the flawed commissions for other detainees. The commissions have been plagued with constitutional and procedural problems and have resulted in only five completed cases. The criminal justice system, on the other hand, has successfully handled hundreds of terrorism cases, including Ghalaini's.

The following can be attributed to Hina Shamsi, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

"The Ghailani trial, like hundreds of others before it, should put to rest any unfounded fears that our federal justice system cannot conduct fair, safe and effective trials in terrorism cases, including when torture is an issue. The prosecution of Mr. Ghailani excluded evidence derived from torture — as the rule of law and American values require — and, unlike military commissions trials, resulted in a process the American people can trust.

"The federal justice system is designed to provide both sides with a fair trial and is fully capable of protecting fundamental rights and national security concerns at the same time. Federal courts are not only the right place but the most effective place to prosecute terrorism suspects. As the Obama administration reportedly considers prosecuting some terrorism suspects in the illegitimate military commissions, we hope it will heed the lesson of the Ghailani case — federal courts work, military commissions don't."

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