NEW YORK (Reuters) - Criminal charges against the first detainee transferred to the United States from a U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to face trial in a civilian court cannot be dropped just because he was tortured, a New York judge ruled on Monday.
In a written opinion, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan denied Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani’s motion to have his indictment dismissed on grounds that he was tortured while in CIA custody and as a result deprived of essential rights.
Ghailani, a Tanzanian, has pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda to kill Americans, and separate charges of murder for 224 people killed in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
He was taken into custody in Pakistan in July 2004 and then interrogated outside the United States as part of Washington’s secret “extraordinary rendition” program in which terrorism suspects were captured in one country and interrogated in another.
Ghailani was transferred to the U.S. naval base in Cuba in 2006 and moved to the United States last June to be tried in Manhattan federal court.
In his motion, Kaplan said, Ghailani had made the case that being tortured was so “outrageous” and “shocking” that it violated his right to due process.
Kaplan argued, however, that since the prosecution is not using any statements Ghailani made while in CIA custody, a conviction in this case would be “entirely unconnected” to the alleged rights violation.
Steve Zissou, an attorney for Ghailani, was not immediately available for comment.
The trial is due to begin in late September.
Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Michelle Nichols and Eric Walsh