NEW YORK, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Lawyers who defended the
only former Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a U.S. federal
court received an award on Thursday for "promoting integrity in
the criminal justice system."
At a luncheon for the New York State Bar Association, the
group's Criminal Justice section praised the six-lawyer team
which defended Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 37, who was accused of
joining the 1998 al Qaeda bomb attacks on U.S. embassies in
Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
It was the first time the criminal justice award had been
presented in a terrorism-related case.
Ghailaini's five-week Manhattan federal court trial had
been seen as a test of President Barack Obama's approach to
handling the terrorism suspects now held at the U.S. naval base
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The suspects include Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001
attacks on the United States.
In November 2010, a jury found Ghailaini guilty of one count
of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property with
explosives, but cleared him of 284 other conspiracy and murder
charges -- a stunning near-acquittal that drew the ire of
critics who said he should have been tried in a military
tribunal and not brought into the United States.
Speaking on behalf of the team, attorney Peter Quijano said
the trial should have bolstered faith in the civilian system,
instead of increasing support for military trials.
"The verdict should have stood for these cases can and
should be tried in the United States in Article III courts,"
Attorneys Steve Zissou, Michael Bachrach, Anna Sideris,
Karloff Commissiong and Hanna Antonsson were also honored for
their part in the Ghailani defense.
Ghailani was sentenced to life in prison last January by
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan. He is serving his sentence at
the U.S. Pederal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado,
dubbed a "supermax" jail.
The case is now before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of
(Reporting By Basil Katz)
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