Convicted terrorist Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which claimed the lives of 224 people and wounded thousands.
Ghailani, 36, is the first ex-Gitmo detainee to be prosecuted in civilian court. But his case raised anxieties on Capitol Hill and elsewhere over the issue of trying Gitmo detainee cases in civilian courts after the government ran into some difficulties and only won convictions on 1 of 285 counts against Ghailani.
He was convicted Nov. 17 of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property. Authorities charged that he helped in the preparation of the attack, which included buying TNT.
But despite the conviction on one count, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan handed him a life sentence, and said, according to the New York Times: “The very purpose of the crime was to create terror by causing death and destruction.”
He is the fifth person to be convicted in connection with the embassy bombings.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement following the sentencing, saying:
“Today, in Manhattan Federal Court, justice was served. Ahmed Ghailani is a remorseless terrorist, mass murderer, and Al Qaeda operative, and now he will spend the rest of his life in prison. As we said in court on the day this trial began, Ghailani was a vital member of the East African terror cell that murdered 224 innocent people and wounded thousands of others in the 1998 bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Finally, twelve-and-a-half years after those devastating and despicable attacks, Ahmed Ghailani will pay for his crimes.
“This was a difficult case for a number of reasons. Our goal all along was to hold Ghailani accountable for his heinous conduct, and, no matter the obstacles, to see to it that he would receive the punishment he deserved. Today, our goal was achieved, as Ahmed Ghailani will never again breathe free air.”
“The reason we are at this point today is the extraordinary hard work done in difficult circumstances by a lot of people. I salute the unflagging commitment, dedication, and talent of the FBI agents who so thoroughly investigated this case and the prosecutors who so ably tried it.”
“They spent years of their lives putting this case together — traveling around the world, interviewing hundreds of witnesses, and piecing together fragments of evidence from the bombed-out shells of two American embassies. I would like to personally thank the lawyers from my office who oversaw the prosecution — Michael Farbiarz, Nick Lewin, Harry Chernoff, and Sean Buckley. I would also like to thank the hard-working detectives of the NYPD and all our other partners in the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Tanzanian National Police, and the Kenyan Police for their exceptional work and assistance in this case.”