Ahmed Ghailani was a member of the terrorist group Al Qaeda involved in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Africa. His subsequent capture and trial was notable as a rare civilian trial of someone deemed an "enemy combatant."
Born in Tanzania, Ahmed Ghailani trained with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization and was a key part of the bombing of American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. The evidence that was presented against Ahmed Ghailani during the course of his trial included proof that he had purchased a truck which had been used in the bombings. Ahmed Ghailani was involved in the purchase of other materials used in the bombing, including the explosive TNT, gas cylinders containing acetylene and oxygen, detonators containing explosives and fertilizer.
After the African embassy bombings, Ahmed Ghailani fled to Pakistan. While he was in hiding, he was named by the FBI as one of its most wanted fugitives. He was captured by American troops in Pakistan in 2004. Following his transfer into American custody, his status was reviewed by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal. During this time, he was held in custody at undisclosed locations abroad before being transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp maintained by the military in Cuba.
It was eventually determined that Ahmed Ghailani would be tried in civilian court rather than before a military tribunal. Ahmed Ghailani was transferred from Guantanamo Bay to New York City in June of 2009 for a trial which began in October of 2010. During this time, Ahmed Ghailani expressed regret for his role in the bombings. His attorneys prepared a defense that did not deny any of the actions he had been documented performing. Rather, they claimed that Ahmed Ghailani was not aware of the larger purpose organizing his actions. They also claimed that he had been abused while in military and CIA custody, which justified a less severe sentence.
During the course of trial, Ahmed Ghailani faced 285 different charges. One was a charge of conspiracy to destroy United States buildings or property. The other 284 charges included 273 charges of murder or attempted murder concerning the death of casualties of the embassy attacks. During the course of trial, an undercover agent who had sold Ahmed Ghailani TNT was not allowed to testify as a witness.
Despite concerns expressed by the Obama Administration that a jury was likely to acquit such a defendant, Ahmed Ghailani was found guilty of a single count of conspiracy to destroy American structures or property. The judge ruled that due to the nature of the seriousness of the crime, Ahmed Ghailani deserved the maximum sentence of 36 years in jail. In his ruling, the judge rejected both the idea that Ahmed Ghailani was unaware of the purpose of his actions and the idea that any mistreatment by authorities while in legal custody justified a lesser sentence. The judge also ordered that Ahmed Ghailani to pay $33 million to the government and victims' surviving families.