Trying suspected terrorists can be a difficult thing, especially when they are tried in civilian court. This week, a suspected terrorist was sentenced after being convicted of a crime that occurred in 1998.
Business Week reports that Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 36, was handed a life sentence Tuesday, Jan. 25. 2011. Ghailani was convicted Nov. 17, 2010, for his participation in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The bombings injured over 4,500 people and killed 24; 12 were American citizens. Ghailani was the first Guantanamo Bay detainee tried in a civilian court. The federal jury in New York convicted him of conspiracy to destroy U.S. buildings but cleared Ghailani of 284 other charges. The prosecutor argued for life because evidence showed he was tied to Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.
I think that the trial, conviction and sentencing represent a great dilemma to try suspected terrorists in civilian court. When it comes to trying a suspected terrorist, I think military tribunals are still the most efficient way to go. When you watched the case of Ghailani, it was clear to see that it is difficult to apply civilian laws and the rules regarding evidence to such terrorist suspects.
One really intriguing and complicated way to look at this case is to look at the government’s main witness. MSNBC reports the government had a witness in this case whose job priority was to try to stop terrorism, not handle a criminal investigation. The man was supposed to testify that he sold explosives to Ghailani that were used in the bombings, but the information and testimony was kept out of the trial. The information was kept out because this man and his team of investigators are not qualified to handle or gather evidence in a criminal trial. These men gathered evidence in a manner that helps stop terrorist activities, which means their procedures do not follow the code of gathering evidence for a criminal trial. The testimony was also thrown out of the trial because it was also discovered that Ghailani underwent harsh interrogation tactics at a CIA-run camp in 2004.
Knowing all of this information leads me to believe that it would be the same type of situation no matter who the suspected terrorist is. Military tribunals seem to be the best way to go in this situation because they can properly handle evidence and know the way to gather the information. The military tribunal also knows how to handle the impact of harsh interrogations when it comes to still getting evidence into the trial. I believe that anyone suspected of terrorist activity should be tried in a military tribunal because you are dealing with federal crimes which are more serious than crimes handled in civilian court. This case, although Ghailani got a life sentence, is a good indication of how little civilian courts know about interrogation and tactics used by our military to handle suspected terrorists. Also, having more suspected terrorists tried in civilian court will tie the court system up which should be used for civilian crimes only. I think it is best just to use the military tribunals because they have more knowledge on how to handle terrorist suspects and can deal with the complicated situations better.
Patricia Hurtado, “Ghailani Gets Life in Prison for Embassy Bombings”, Business Week
Associated Press, “Guantanamo detainee gets life for embassy bombings”, MSNBC