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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid