Guantanamo al Qaeda suspect pleads innocent in NY
The United States transferred the first detainee from Guantanamo Bay on Tuesday to stand trial in a U.S. civilian court in a test case for President Barack Obama's plans to close the controversial prison for foreign terrorism suspects.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba since 2006, pleaded not guilty in Manhattan court to charges of conspiring in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 people.
He had been escorted to New York by U.S. marshals, the Department of Justice said.
Ghailani faces 286 counts, including charges of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to kill Americans anywhere in the world, and separate charges of murder for each of the 224 people killed in the bombings on August 7, 1998.
Ghailani was brought into the courtroom wearing a blue jail uniform. Judge Loretta Preska asked him how he would plea and he said, "Not guilty."
Bringing Ghailani to the United States and putting him on trial in a civilian court will test Obama's contention -- countering concern from some in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress -- that some of the 240 detainees at the camp can be safely prosecuted and imprisoned in the United States.
Ghailani was transferred three weeks after Obama laid out his plans for closing the Guantanamo camp by January 2010. The prison, long condemned by human rights groups, was opened in 2002 under President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Ghailani is charged with helping to buy a truck and oxygen and acetylene tanks used in the Tanzania bombing, and of loading boxes of TNT, detonators, and other equipment into the back of the truck in the weeks immediately before the bombing.
At a 2007 hearing at Guantanamo Bay to determine that he was an "enemy combatant," Ghailani confessed and apologized for supplying equipment used in the Tanzania bombing but said he did not know the supplies would be used to attack the embassy, according to military transcripts.
[Source: By Edith Honan, Reuters, New York, 09Jun09]
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