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US judge bars major witness from GITMO detainee's trial

By Nitsi
|

New York, Oct. 7 (ANI): A federal judge barred prosecutors on Wednesday from using a crucial witness in the first trial of a former Guantanamo detainee.

The trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who faces charges in the 1998 bombings of two United States Embassies in East Africa, has been seen as a test of President Obama's goal of moving many other detainees, like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, into federal court and, ultimately, closing Guantanamo.

Just as the trial was to begin on Wednesday, Judge Kaplan ruled that he would not allow the witness to testify. He noted that the government had acknowledged that it had identified and located the witness through interrogation of Ghailani when he was earlier held in a secret overseas jail run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

His lawyers have said he was tortured there.

Judge Kaplan said he was "acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world in which we live."

"But the Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand," he opined.

US Attorney General Holder played down the ruling's significance.

He added: "We are talking about one ruling, in one case by one judge. I think the true test is, ultimately, how are these cases resolved? What happens? Can they be successfully resolved from the government's perspective?"

Holder said history had shown that hundreds of terrorism and related cases had been resolved through pleas or convictions in civilian court.

"I think it's too early to say that at this point the Ghailani matter is not going to be successful," he said.

Ghailani's trial on charges he conspired in the embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was scheduled to begin on Wednesday. The attacks, orchestrated by Al Qaeda, killed 224 people. (ANI)

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