Bomb trial delay as judge bars witness

Saturday 22 October 2011 21:41

The first civilian trial of a detainee from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was delayed yesterday after a judge told prosecutors they could not call their star witness to testify at the hearing in New York.

Judge Lewis Kaplan blocked the government from calling a man who officals claim sold explosives to the defendant, Ahmed Ghailani. Defence lawyers said investigators learned about the witness only after Mr Ghailani, a Tanzanian, underwent interrogation at a secret CIA camp overseas between 2004 and 2006.

"The court has not reached this conclusion lightly," Judge Kaplan wrote. "It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world in which we live. But the constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction."

The government asked for a delay of the trial, which was due to begin with opening statements yesterday, so that it has time to appeal against the ruling, should it decide to do so.

Mr Ghailani is charged over two bombings at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 that killed 224 people and injured hundreds more. The judge issued his ruling after a hearing three weeks ago in which the witness, Hussein Abebe, testified about his dealings with US officials. "The government has failed to prove Abebe's testimony is sufficiently attenuated from Ghailani's coerced statements to permit its receipt in evidence," Mr Kaplan wrote.

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