The Obama administration announced early Thursday that it would move its first Guantanamo detainee to civilian trial on U.S. soil — a Tanzanian captive who was indicted years ago in New York City for the 1998 East Africa embassies bombing.
Attorney General Eric Holder issued the statement on the same day President Barack Obama was to deliver a major speech on his plans for emptying the controversial prison camps in southeast Cuba.
The accused, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, has been held at Guantanamo in a segregated lockup for former CIA-held prisoners since President Bush ordered his transfer there in September 2006. He is also under charges at the special war court Bush created, the military commissions.
While at Guantanamo he reportedly told military officers of his remorse for any role he had in the coordinated car bombings of the embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. More than 220 people perished in the attacks on Aug. 7, 1998 12 of them Americans.
"It was without my knowledge what they were doing, but I helped them," Ghailani told a panel of military officers on March 17, 2007.
"So I apologize to the United States government for what I did. And I'm sorry for what happened to those families who lost, who lost their friends and their beloved ones."
The Ghailani decision revives a decade-old case that was first sworn by New York federal prosecutor Mary Jo White during the Clinton administration that also charged Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda leadership with attacks on the U.S. embassies.
"By prosecuting Ahmed Ghailani in federal court, we will ensure that he finally answers for his alleged role in the bombing of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya," Holder said in a statement.
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