News / USA

US Constitutional Protection Given to Foreign Terror Suspect

Accused terrorist Ahmed Ghailani in court
Accused terrorist Ahmed Ghailani in court
Peter Fedynsky

A U.S. federal judge in New York has ruled that testimony of a key witness identified as a result of coercion may not be used in the trial of accused terrorist Ahmed Ghailani.  Ghailani is the first suspect held in Guantanamo to be tried in an American civilian court.  

U.S. Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan has granted a motion by Ahmed Ghailani's defense team to preclude testimony against the defendant by Hussein Abebe.  Kaplan agreed that Abebe was identified and located as a direct result of statements made by Ghailani while he was held by the Central Intelligence Agency.  

The judge said the conclusion has not been reached lightly, noting "acute awareness of the perilous nature of the world in which we live."  But he says, "The Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests, and it must be followed not only when it is convenient.  To do less, would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand."

The decision is based on the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says no one shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.

Ghailani's attorney, Peter Quijano, says the defense could not agree more with the court, adding that this case will be tried on lawful evidence, not torture, not coercion.  

"For our system of justice, to work, the Fifth Amendment must apply to Ahmed Ghailani as much as to any other defendant before the bar of justice," said Quijano. "It is the Constitution that won a great victory today.  We applaud the Court for its courage and support for the law."

Ghailani is accused of terrorism in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and his native Tanzania, as well as conspiracy with al-Qaida to kill Americans around the world.

The judge delayed opening of the trial until Tuesday, admonishing about 65 potential jurors not to read, discuss or research anything about the case to make certain they do not become prejudiced about it.  The delay allows the government time to reconsider its strategy or to appeal the ruling.  

In his remarks to the court, U.S. Assistant Attorney Michael Farbiarz did not indicate how the prosecution will proceed.

The Court had rejected pretrial motions by the defense to dismiss the case altogether on grounds that Ghailani was subjected to prolonged detention and harsh interrogation at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Ghailani was apparently forced to divulge Abebe's identity while in confinement with terrorists linked to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University associate law professor and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the prosecution may have enough evidence to convict even without Abebe's testimony.  

"That is certainly the hope of the prosecutors that they can rely as much as possible, if not exclusively, on pre 9/11 evidence," said Waxman. "And now that this case has gone through some pre-trial rulings, it really does boil down to evidence."

The defendant entered the courtroom without handcuffs, dressed in a maroon shirt, a tie and gray pullover.  He appeared to have a relaxed smile and animated discussions with his attorneys.  

Judge Kaplan noted Ghailani faces the possibility of life imprisonment, if convicted.  He said the defendant's status as an enemy combatant could permit his detention in a status similar to a prisoner of war until hostilities between the United States, al Qaida and the Taliban end, even if he were found not guilty.  

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid