A former lawyer for the suspected Al Qaida operative accused in the 1998 bombings of two embassies in Africa charged Tuesday that the government had blocked access to his client in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.
Attorney Scott Fenstermaker blamed the Justice and Defense departments and the CIA for keeping him from seeing Ahmed Ghailani for 19 months and for returning 40 legal letters.
Ghailani is the first Guantanamo detainee whose terrorism case has been transferred to a civilian court on U.S soil. Flown to Manhattan last week, the accused al Qaida forger and bomb maker appeared for the second time in Manhattan Federal Court. He has pleaded not guilty to the 286 charges against him.
Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected Fernstermaker's request to stay on the case and denied the lawyer's contention that the government was trying to handpick who defends Ghailani.
Judge Kaplan did sau that two military defense lawyers who had represented Ghailani at Guantanamo can continue on his case, provided their superiors approve.
Kaplan also appointed attorney Gregory Cooper to replace Fenstermaker and urged the Justice Department to quickly clarify whether they are seeking the death penalty against Ghailani.
He is charged with separate murder counts for each of the 224 people killed in the U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya as well as other charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism.