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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs