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Guantanamo Detainee Convicted on Only One Count in NY

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Lewin, foreground, gives his opening statement to the jury in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, left, in Manhattan Federal Court in New York, 12 Oct 2010

A jury in New York has acquitted Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to face trial in a U.S. civilian court, of all but one of 285 charges against him. Ghailani had been charged with conspiracy in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and his native Tanzania. He faces a minimum of 20 years in prison, but his attorneys plan to appeal the conviction.

Ghailani was cleared of most conspiracy charges and all counts of murder for each of the 224 people killed in the embassy attacks. He was found guilty of conspiracy to destroy U.S. property.

In a written statement, the prosecution said, "We respect the jury's verdict and are pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence for his role in the embassy bombings."

Prosecution witnesses had testified that Ghailani purchased the truck used in the Tanzanian bombing. FBI investigators told the court a blasting cap had been found in an armoire used by the defendant in Das es Salaam.

The defense did not deny such allegations, but portrayed Ghailani as a dupe for those who actually carried out the attacks.

"The government needed to show that he knew what the objective of these conspiracies or the crimes that he was accused of were when he engaged in certain conduct," said Defense attorney Peter Quijano. "The question as we saw it, both legally and strategically, was whether there was proof that he knew."

The government's case suffered a setback before the trial began when Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected testimony from Hussein Abebe, a key government witness, who was to have testified that he allegedly sold Ghailani the dynamite used in the bombing.

Kaplan said Ghailani's constitutional rights were violated, because Abebe had been identified as a direct result of statements made by the defendant under duress while he was held by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Peter Quijano says the defense will appeal the conviction on the single count. He said Ahmed Guilani should be given credit for time served since his capture six years ago in Pakistan.

Quijano added that Ghailani believes he got a fair trial. The attorney also expressed sympathy for victims of the embassy bombings.