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Tanzanian Guantanamo Detainee Apologizes, Malaysian Also Has Hearing


According to a U.S. Defense Department transcript a Tanzanian detainee at the Guantanamo detention center has apologized for his role in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam in 1998, and said he was not as involved in the plot as the U.S. military has charged. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

The transcript says Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani told a panel of military officers he was not a member of al-Qaida and did not know what the terrorist group members were working on when he helped them transport goods and obtain documents. He said he apologizes to the United States government and he is sorry for what happened to the families who lost their friends and loved ones in the embassy bombing.

Ghailani has been indicted by a U.S. court for his involvement in the attack, which killed 11 people and injured 85.

The transcript says that at the hearing on his status, Ghailani admitted training at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, meeting terrorist leaders, helping terrorists in Tanzania obtain a truck and delivering explosives for them. But he portrayed himself as an unwitting accomplice, saying he took the training for self-defense and did not know what the other men were going to do with the truck and the explosives.

Also on Friday, the Pentagon released the transcript of a hearing for Malaysian alleged terrorist Mohammed Farik Bin Amin, also known as Zubair. He was accused of involvement with the Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiya, and of transporting 50-thousand dollars to help fund the bombing of the Jakarta Marriott Hotel in 2003, which killed 12 people and injured nearly 150.

At the hearing, the U.S. military also accused him of planning to be a suicide bomber in a future attack in the United States. According to the transcript, Zubair did not make any statement at his hearing, but he answered 'yes' or 'no' to various questions from the presiding officer.

The Combatant Status Review Tribunals, held before three U.S. military officers, are designed to determine whether detainees are 'enemy combatants.' If so, they become eligible for trials called Military Commissions, under a new procedure approved by the U.S. Congress last year. Hundreds of detainees have been released as a result of these and other review proceedings, but that is not expected for Ghailani, Zubair and 12 other alleged senior terrorists who were transferred to Guantanamo last year from secret American prisons in other countries.

Human Rights organizations have called for the Guantanamo detainees to be released or tried in regular civilian or military courts. The advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, Tom Malinowski, says the process now going on at Guantanamo does not change the uncertain status, or future, of these men.

"I think in a sense they are still in limbo because none of these men have yet to face a real trial before a real court, before a civilian court or a military court. I think until the day when they are in fact brought to account for the crimes that they committed they are going to be in limbo and the system itself is going to be under continued scrutiny and criticism," he said.

Malinowski says there have been many improvements to the plan to try some of the detainees in military commissions, but he is concerned that they will not have all the legal safeguards of defendants in regular U.S. courts. He is particularly concerned that statements made under alleged torture could become part of the trials.

The first of the military commissions is scheduled to begin Monday, with a preliminary hearing in Guantanamo for Australian David Hicks, who is accused of fighting with the Taleban in Afghanistan. On Friday, a civilian U.S. judge denied a request by his attorneys to delay the proceedings until the U.S. Supreme Court can rule on issues related to the commissions. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned the original military commissions plan, and the congress later passed a new law with revised procedures, which are now being used.

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