What if a Gitmo detainee is acquitted? It’s hypothetical …

June 9, 2009

The Obama administration doesn’t want to talk about what might happen if a New York court acquits a Guantanamo Bay terrorism suspect.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian, Tuesday became the first Guantanamo prisoner sent to the United States for trial. He pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court.

Ghailani is accused of conspiring to bomb the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, killing 224 people. He had been held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba since 2006.

His transfer to New York was seen as a test case for President Barack Obama’s effort to close the controversial prison for foreign terrorism suspects.

A key question in dealing with the detainees has been whether to try them in military or civil courts. So has the issue of what to do with prisoners who are acquitted.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs refused Tuesday to say whether the administration would set Ghailani free if he was acquitted.

He was asked the question repeatedly at a White House briefing. Here are his replies:

“Well, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals.”

“I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about the court cases either.”

“Well, let’s discuss that if it ever comes to fruition.”

“I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about how certain cases may or may not play out.”

“I’m not willing to get into playing hypothetical games.”

“I’m not debating legal principles. I’m just not getting into the hypothetical back and forth of what happens on a case.”

“I am not going to get into the hypotheticals about specific outcomes of cases.”

“We will talk about what happens about a verdict when a verdict comes.”

“And I’m, in this specific case, not going to get into those hypotheticals.”

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Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Gibbs at a briefing earlier this year); Reuters/Christine Cornell (Artist rendition of Ghailani at hearing on Tuesday in New York)


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The administration would then have a hell of a dilemma. You’ve held somebody for years, incommunicado, and now a civilian court has found the person not guilty or has been acquitted. Now what do you do? IMHO, compensation, repatriation, and an apology from the POTS would be in order.

I bet they don’t want to talk about it…

Posted by Al Reaud | Report as abusive

Al, the federal justice system is full of kangaroo courts. He is not my favorite Senator but look at what happened to Ted Stevens. He spent millions proving the Federal Prosecutors put a liar on the stand to get him convicted. The same group of attorneys were subsequently found to have engaged in misconduct in twelve other detainees cases before the same Judge Sullivan.

Do you really think any detainee if tried in Federal Court will be found not guilty?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

We’ve already released hundreds from Gitmo and other places. They have been given back to their own countries:More than 530 Guantanamo prisoners were subsequently freed or transferred to other nations under the Bush administration, and two have been released since Obama took office in January.

Posted by ellroon | Report as abusive

Some of the prisoners could be acquitted, or will get out after serving their terms. This is the case of Ahmed Ressam, the Millenium Bomber, who plotted to blow up the Los Angeles Internation Airport on New Year’s Eve 1999. Ressem is scheduled to be released as early as 2016 because of a plea deal in which ge gave up valuable information on terror camps in Afghanistan. So what? They won’t be allowed to loiter in my neighborhood. We have a system in place to deal with their deportation, although rendition for the purpose of torture is no longer allowed. At least that’s what the government wants us to think.

Posted by Paul Solomon | Report as abusive