Guantanamo Bay prisoner to face civilian court

The first detainee was transferred from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp yesterday to stand trial in a US civilian court in a test case for President Barack Obama's plans to close the prison for foreign terrorism suspects.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani – a Tanzanian held at the US naval base in Cuba since 2006 – arrived in New York escorted by US marshals. Mr Ghailani faces 286 charges, including conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qa'ida to kill Americans anywhere in the world, and separate charges of murder for each of the 224 people killed in the US embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, on 7 August 1998.

The transfer was made three weeks after President Obama laid out his plans for closing the Guantanamo Bay camp by January 2010. The prison, long a target of criticism by human rights groups, was opened in 2002 under President George Bush after the September 11 attacks.

Transferring Mr Ghailani to the US and putting him on trial in a civilian court will test Mr Obama's contention that some of the 240 detainees at the camp can be brought to justice and imprisoned in the United States. He has faced resistance from some members of Congress on the grounds it could endanger Americans' security.