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Witness hurdle delays first Guantanamo civilian trial

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-10-06

The first trial of a former Guantanamo Bay inmate in a civilian court was delayed on Wednesday after the New York judge told prosecutors he would not allow testimony from their key witness.

AFP - A judge on Wednesday barred a key government witness from appearing in the trial of a former Guantanamo inmate, in a setback to the US administration's bid to try terrorism suspects in civilian courts.

Judge Lewis Kaplan postponed the first trial in a civilian court of a former inmate from the notorious US military prison in Cuba until Tuesday to give prosecutors time to appeal his ruling.

Kaplan ruled that the witness, Hussein Abebe, could not testify in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani who is accused of a key role in the killing of 224 people during the bombings against two US embassies in Africa in 1998.

It was the second time that Ghailani's high-profile, landmark trial has been postponed by the New York court.

Kaplan said he was barring Abebe because his "testimony would be the product of statements made by Ghailani to the CIA under duress."

Abebe could not testify because he had been uncovered by the US authorities as a "direct result of statements made by Ghailani while he was held by the CIA," Kaplan added.

Arrested in Pakistan in 2004, Ghailani is the sole inmate of the notorious Guantanamo facility in Cuba to have been transferred into the US civilian justice system.

Ghailani was also subjected to what the government calls "enhanced interrogation" at Central Intelligence Agency secret prisons, which his lawyers have described as torture.

The ruling was a serious blow to the government case and goes to the root of how to try terrorism suspects who have undergone such "enhanced interrogations."

The judge emphasized that in his ruling, "even if he was found not guilty in this case", Ghailani would possibly be detained for life as an "enemy combatant."

President Barack Obama's plans to close Guantanamo and bring five alleged plotters of the September 11, 2001 attacks to trial in New York have proved controversial because opponents believe terror suspects should be denied US legal rights.

Date created : 2010-10-06

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