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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs