U.S. Charges Suspect in African Embassy Bombing
By Sgt. Sara Moore, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 31, 2008 Charges have been sworn against a Guantanamo Bay detainee, alleging he was involved in the preparation and planning of the 1998 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, Defense Department officials announced today.
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, legal advisor to the convening authority, Office of Military Commissions, announces formal charges against the first alleged bomber of the east African embassy during a press briefing at the Pentagon, March 31, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, of Zanzibar, Tanzania, is being charged with murder in violation of the law of war, murder of protected persons, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, and terrorism, Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, legal advisor to the convening authority in the DoD Office of Military Commissions, told reporters at the Pentagon.
Ghailani is the 15th detainee against whom charges have been sworn under the Military Commissions Act.
The chief prosecutor in the case has recommended that the charges against Ghailani be referred as capital, Hartmann said. The charges now will be reviewed by Hartmann and forwarded to Susan Crawford, the convening authority, who will decide whether the case should be referred to trial and whether the charges should be capital, which would mean a maximum penalty of death.
The bombing of the embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, happened on Aug. 7, 1998, the eight-year anniversary of the start of Operation Desert Shield. A truck bomb exploded at the embassy within four minutes of another bomb exploding at the American Embassy in Kenya. The bombing in Tanzania killed 11 people and injured hundreds.
The charges allege that Ghailani was involved in the following actions:
-- Purchasing TNT, detonators and detonation cord on multiple occasions and transporting the bomb components to Dar es Salaam;
-- Moving the bomb components to various safe houses in and around Dar es Salaam;
-- Assisting in the purchase of the truck used in the attack;
-- Facilitating the purchase of oxygen cylinder tanks that were used as bomb components;
-- Escorting the bomb engineer between Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, Kenya, after the bomb had been assembled;
-- Scouting the American Embassy with the suicide-bomb driver;
-- Meeting with co-conspirators in Nairobi, Kenya, shortly before the bombing; and
-- Joining the co-conspirators on a flight from Nairobi to Karachi, Pakistan, one day prior to the bombing.
Ghailani is further charged with providing material support to terrorism, Hartmann said. This charge alleges that, after the bombing, Ghailani continued in his service to al Qaeda as a document forger, physical trainer at an al Qaeda training camp, and as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. Ghailani was arrested in July 2004 in Pakistan, Hartmann said.
There is no timeline for the charges to be reviewed and for Crawford to make her decision, Hartmann said, but the office of the convening authority will work as quickly as possible on this case.
This is the seventh case to be sworn as capital; six detainees were charged Feb. 11 with involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and their cases were recommended to be capital. Those cases still are being reviewed in the office of the convening authority, Hartmann said.
Under the Military Commissions Act, if a case is referred as capital and goes to trial, a military commission panel of at least 12 members must determine guilt or innocence and sentencing by a unanimous decision. The accused has the right to appeal the case all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, as well as the rights to elect not to testify at trial; to be represented by detailed military counsel, as well as civilian counsel of his own selection and at no expense to the government; to examine all evidence presented to a jury by the prosecution; to obtain evidence and to call witnesses on his own behalf, including expert witnesses; to confront and cross-examine every witness called by the prosecution; to be present during the presentation of evidence; and to have no statements obtained by torture admitted.
Hartmann emphasized that the charges are only allegations that Ghailani has committed offenses under the Military Commissions Act, and he remains innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.