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Verdict in terror case can close civilians trials in favour of military courts.

(FILES) An FBI file handout image received on May 26, 2004 shows Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an Al-Qaeda suspect from Tanzania. The New York judge in the first civilian trial for a former prisoner from Guantanamo Bay on November 17, 2010 answered jurors' request for guidance on a key legal definition.The jury had requested help on Tuesday as they grappled with four weeks' worth of testimony in the terrorism trial of Ahmed Ghailani, a 36-year-old Tanzanian man accused of participating in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa. AFP PHOTO/FILES/FBI/HO ++RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS++ (Photo credit should read HO/AFP/Getty Images)

What was a very bad day for Ahmed Ghailani, now a convicted felon likely to spend many years in a supermax prison, was also, because of the super-charged politics surrounding Guantanamo Bay, a pretty bad day for the Obama administration.

To be sure, the 36-year-old Tanzanian was convicted Wednesday of one count of conspiracy in federal court in New York. In addition, Ghailani could well serve life in prison for his role in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa by al-Qaeda. And it’s at least debatable whether the outcome would have been different in a military commission in Guantanamo, Cuba.

But the political reality is that the prospect of a tough sentence for conspiracy to destroy U.S. property by fire or explosives was largely swallowed up by a stunning verdict in which Ghailani was acquitted of 284 counts, including all 224 murder counts.

Across the administration, from the White House to the Justice Department, and among some human rights advocates, there was private dismay that…READ MORE HERE


From my seat in the second row early Wednesday evening, I glanced at some of the plainclothes U.S. Marshals guarding the scene. Would this al Qaeda operative be allowed to leave?

My illusion vanished after the judge’s clerk prompted the foreman to deliver the verdict for the fourth count: conspiracy to destroy American property.

“Guilty,” the foreman said. It was the last time we would hear that word.

Ghailani did not walk out of the courtroom, and the Obama Administration did not face the awkward prospect of continuing to detain Ghailani as a so-called “enemy combatant” in the war on terror.

There are two ways to look at the verdict, which has reignited a debate over civilian trials versus military commissions for terrorism suspects.

On the one hand, the conviction guarantees a READ MORE HERE