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Republicans Decry Detainee Arrival in US


The arrival in the United States of the first terrorist detainee from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba triggered more protests from minority Republicans opposing President Obama's plans to close the detention facility.

For weeks, Republicans have repeatedly criticized President Obama on the Guantanamo detainee issue, asserting that his plans to close the facility and bring detainees to the U.S. for trial would subject Americans to additional dangers from terrorism.

The administration and majority Democrats call that absurd, noting that U.S. maximum security prisons have been more than capable of holding both foreign and domestic terrorist suspects and convicts.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani arrived in New York on Tuesday to face criminal prosecution for his alleged role in the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 224 people and wounded many others.

Appearing before a judge in a federal court late Tuesday, Ghailani pleaded not guilty to taking part in the bombings.

Ghailani is being held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where other detainees have been housed while awaiting prosecution. Charged among other things with conspiring with terrorist leader Osama bin-Laden and other al-Qaida members to carry out bombings and kill Americans, he could face the death penalty or life in prison.

New York Representative Peter King reiterated Republican criticisms saying until the administration provides more details about plans for handling detainees on American soil, there should be no more transfers.

Where Ghailani is concerned, King said while the case against him appears to be strong, many questions remain about what would happen if he is acquitted.

"Do we forfeit then, do we give up the opportunity to try him for the fact that he was an active member of al-Qaida after September 11, 2001 when he was captured on the battlefield?," asked King. "And if so, what right do we have to hold him, what are the procedures under which he can be held? Is he going to be deported, will he be held here in the U.S.?"

In response to a question, King said a single detainee coming to trial in New York is something the city can handle, adding that concerns he and other Republicans expressed earlier were in response to indications that many detainees would be transferred.

A Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, and Independent Joe Lieberman told reporters on Tuesday they are comfortable with Ghailani being tried in the U.S. as long as it does not set a precedent.

But Republican Minority leader John Boehner and Representative Lamar Smith, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, asserted Tuesday that the Obama administration is trying to set such a precedent.

Citing opinion polls showing Americans oppose the presence of Guantanamo detainees on U.S. soil, Boehner called Ghailani's transfer the first step in the Democrat's plan to import terrorists into America. Smith said bringing Ghailani to the U.S. (granted) a terrorist and murderer additional constitutional rights.

According to recent Gallup and USA Today surveys, Americans by a more than two to one margin oppose closing the Guantanamo facility, and also sharply oppose moving detainees to the U.S. or transferring detainees to their states.

In legislation it has approved so far, Congress has denied the Obama administration money it needs to begin the process of shutting down Guantanamo until the administration provides more detailed plans.

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