Wednesday, June 17, 2009
NEW YORK, June 16 -- Military lawyers can defend a Guantanamo Bay detainee in federal court against charges that he participated in the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa, a federal judge said Tuesday, as long as the lawyers' superior officers approve.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan urged the government to try to determine within a week whether Marine Col. Jeffrey Colwell and Air Force Maj. Richard Reiter would be permitted to defend Ahmed Ghailani. Both were in the courtroom.
"I don't see any reason I would not grant their permission to appear," Kaplan said, adding that he would be surprised if the Defense Department did not approve.
He also urged the government to decide as quickly as possible whether it will seek the death penalty against Ghailani if he is convicted of conspiracy. He also said he expected that Ghailani will face a trial next year. The government has estimated that the trial would last at least three months.
Ghailani, a Tanzanian, became the first detainee from the military prison in Cuba to be brought to a U.S. civilian court for trial when he arrived in Manhattan a week ago to face charges in the August 1998 embassy bombings.
Authorities accused Ghailani of being a bombmaker, document forger and aide to Osama bin Laden when the al-Qaeda bombings killed 224 people -- including 12 Americans -- at the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
He was categorized as a high-value detainee by U.S. authorities after he was captured in Pakistan in 2004, and he was transferred to the detention center at the U.S. naval base in Cuba two years later.