WASHINGTON - -The first terrorism suspect to be moved from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States for trial appeared Tuesday in federal court in New York where he pleaded not guilty to 286 murder and conspiracy charges in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian held at Guantanamo since 2006, had been flown to New York under U.S. marshal escort and detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
President Barack Obama has pledged to close the Guantanamo prison by January and relocate its 240 prisoners from the U.S. naval base in southern Cuba. This has sparked a U.S. political debate, with Republican leaders warning that Americans don't want suspected terrorists at prisons near them and the Obama administration maintaining that federal facilities are secure.
The remote Pacific island nation of Palau said today it has agreed to a U.S. request to temporarily resettle up to 17 Chinese Muslims now held at the Guantanamo. Palau President Johnson Toribiong said his government had "agreed to accommodate the request "subject to periodic review."
Ghailani was a strategic choice for the Obama administration to demonstrate that the federal courts - as opposed to the Guantanamo military tribunals - can be relied on to bring to justice those suspected of heinous acts against the United States.
He is not known to have been subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" prior to his indictment. Those practices, including the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding, have been deemed torture by some judges, raising barriers to the admissibility of any confessions gained through the harsh treatment.
Ghailani confessed at a 2007 Guantanamo hearing to having helped with the 1998 Dar es Salaam embassy bombing, but claimed he wasn't aware of the target or the full attack plan, which included the Nairobi embassy bombing.