Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Update: Why Was Key Witness Barred from Civilian Terrorism Trial?
NYTimes afternoon update: A witness cannot take the stand because prosecutors learned about him from interrogating the defendant in a secret C.I.A. jail overseas, the judge ruled.
See additional analysis on this barring just below..."Judge Lewis' decision is significant, though, because it clearly signals that the court will not countenance evidence derived from torture." (Let's hope so - and what about reversals - appeals - such as in the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui where court was allowed to bring in many items unrelated to the actual charge?)
Commenting on NYTimes headline:
Isn't it time now to make more clear that (whether or not innocence is involved) extraordinary and often ordinary renditions (kidnappings with no transparency anywhere, intimidation, threats which have included threats of killing or raping one's children, wife, self) and torture and quickly arranged "plea bargains" not based on actual facts - before a trial are included in this list. All these stink of less than the sort of justice we in America have wanted other nations to see of us. Is this truly the legacy we want to leave for our children? If not now, when? Perhaps given what we've seen of civilian trials these days, a military tribunal - as inferior as we have considered the same to be - may be more just than what we've seen of civilian trials? Yet, either sort of trial definitely needs much more accountability. The media also must needs be accountable to the public on these cases as well and not quickly shove such items under the flash of other stories.
"The ruling by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan would be a setback for the Obama administration's goal of trying former detainees in civilian courts because it would limit the kinds of evidence prosecutors can introduce. It was not immediately clear if prosecutors would appeal the ruling."
Note: This excerpt is certainly transparent...what would the setback be? Could this relate to the frequent CIA intimidation, threats and torture interrogations? Might these also be related to renditions/extraordinary renditions? Yet if so, why should they not also be disallowed in military tribunals?
Yet the fact is that torture WAS allowed in terms of what the judge kept repeating to jury (was not allowed) and so-called "evidence" specimens were also allowed in the courtroom in the "civilian" trial of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui under Judge Richard Berman (See many items on this trial at oneheartforpeace )
Also keep reading Andy Worthington's site and book which digs way underneath the usual reports.
SEE analysis at end of this post
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Wed, October 06, 2010 -- 10:15 AM ET
Judge Bars Major Witness From Civilian Terrorism Trial
Minutes before a major terrorism trial was about to begin, a
federal judge barred prosecutors in Manhattan on Wednesday
from using a key witness.
The government had acknowledged it learned about the witness
from the defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, while he was
being interrogated while being held in a secret overseas jail
run by the C.I.A.
The ruling by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan would be a setback for
the Obama administration's goal of trying former detainees in
civilian courts because it would limit the kinds of evidence
prosecutors can introduce. It was not immediately clear if
prosecutors would appeal the ruling.
The defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, was scheduled to begin
trial on Wednesday in Federal District Court on charges he
conspired in the 1998 bombings of the American Embassies in
Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks,
orchestrated by Al Qaeda, killed 224 people.
Read More: here
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Judge Bars Witness Testimony in Ghailani Terror Trial
By Jeralyn, Section Terror Trials
Posted on Wed Oct 06, 2010 at 12:19:00 PM EST
U. S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan, presiding over the case of former Guantanamo detainee, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, ruled today that Hussein Abebe, a key government witness, may not take the stand because he was identified as a result of statements Ghailani made during secret CIA interrogation using harsh interrogation techniques, alleged to be torture. The Government, to avoid litigating the legality of the CIA's action, previously assured the judge information obtained during the interrogation would not be used at trial. Jury selection has been postphoned until next week to give the Government time to regroup or appeal.
"The court has not reached this conclusion lightly," 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."
Ghailani is charged in federal court with the 1998 Africa embassy bombings.
He was captured in 2004, transferred to a CIA secret prison overseas, where he allegedly was tortured. He was then transferred to Guantanamo, where he stayed for almost three years. In 2009, he was charged in federal court in New York and transferred.
"Abebe was identified and located as a close and direct result of statements made by Ghailani while he was held by the CIA. The government has elected not to litigate the details of Ghailani's treatment while in CIA custody. It has sought to make this unnecessary by asking the court to assume in deciding this motion that everything Ghailani said while in CIA custody was coerced."
...The government has failed to prove that Abebe's testimony is sufficiently
attenuated from Ghailani's coerced statements to permit its receipt in evidence," Kaplan wrote.
Even if acquitted, it's likely Ghailani would continue to be held in indefinite detention for the duration of "hostilities" between the U.S., al Qaeda and the Taliban...in other words, a life sentence.
Human Rights First - Daphne Eviatar says:
The issue here is not that the testimony has been barred, but that the defendant was tortured. The fact that Judge Lewis recognizes that evidence derived through torture is inadmissible only strengthens the view that civilian federal courts, not military commissions, can best handle difficult terrorism cases.
Just yesterday, a federal court sentenced the Times Square bomber to life in prison. Let's be clear – the barred testimony in the Ghailani case is not the only evidence that the government will present in this case. The government convicted four of Ghailani's alleged co-conspirators in the same federal court, without the testimony of this particular witness. Judge Lewis' decision is significant, though, because it clearly signals that the court will not countenance evidence derived from torture."
Posted by CN at 8:44 AM