The first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be convicted on a terrorism charge in a U.S. civilian court has asked for leniency at sentencing, citing his "mistreatment" at an overseas CIA camp, prosecutors said in papers filed Friday in which they seek to keep him incarcerated for life.
The treatment of Ahmed Ghailani after his 2004 arrest was not mentioned at his trial last year, when he was convicted by a jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan of one count of conspiracy to destroy U.S. property and acquitted of 280 other charges. Papers filed Friday by defense lawyers were under seal, presumably because they discuss his treatment.
The charge of which Ghailani, 36, was convicted stemmed from the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The bombings killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
The mention of Ghailani's post-arrest treatment ensures that his handling by the CIA will be a focus of his sentencing, which is scheduled for Jan. 25.
Just before Ghailani's five-week trial began, Judge Lewis Kaplan excluded the government's main witness, saying prosecutors could not show they would have learned about him were it not for information divulged while Ghailani was held at a CIA camp where harsh interrogation tactics were used. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the CIA used 10 harsh methods, including waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning.
The judge said prosecutors failed to show Ghailani's rough CIA interrogation played no role in getting the witness to cooperate.
Though many of the details about Ghailani's treatment have been kept secret, the defense divulged during a pretrial hearing that he was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques for 14 hours over five days. Ghailani was arrested in Pakistan, was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2006 and was moved to Manhattan for trial in 2009.
Prosecutors said in papers filed Friday that defense lawyers want leniency on the grounds that Ghailani was "mistreated" while in CIA and Department of Defense custody and because he provided information to U.S. authorities.
They noted that the federal Probation Office rejected the defense request in recommending that he be sentenced to life in prison. The government said the probation report cited the enormity of the crime, the painful impact the bombings continue to have on the victims and "Ghailani's lack of compassion for human life."
Prosecutors said in their papers that Ghailani participated in an "appalling crime."
"The scale of this killing and maiming was tragically vast," they said.
They said Ghailani "operated at the very heart of the al-Qaida terror cell that destroyed" the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and played a hands-on role in the final preparations for the attacks. They said he bought essential bomb components, including fertilizer and more than 100 explosive detonators, and helped load the components into a truck that he had bought and that was used to commit one of the bombings.
Defense lawyers maintained that Ghailani was a dupe who did not know the supplies were to be used in a terrorist attack.
A message left with one of Ghailani's lawyers wasn't immediately returned Friday.