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FBI/Zumapress.comToday is a day that many Americans thought would never arrive: At 9:30 a.m., in the courtroom of Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York, the first-ever trial of a Guantanamo detainee in a federal court is scheduled to begin. It is the case civil libertarians like me have been waiting for, the first real chance to prove that the civilian court system can work in trying Guantanamo terrorists. And yet, on the eve of the trial's opening, many of us are still wondering what the rules of the game will be—and even whether this was such a good idea after all.
(UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, Kaplanbarred a major prosecution witness,http://www.supraskytop.biz, Hussein Abebe, from testifying because the government, "failed to prove that Abebe’s testimony is sufficiently attenuated from Ghailani’s coerced statements to permit its receipt in evidence." That decision will delay the trial until next week.)
It's not, of course, that terrorists aren't commonly tried in US courts: The federal courthouse in Manhattan, within walking distance from the World Trade Center site, is a veritable cineplex of terrorism cases. In the past few weeks alone, it has been the site of three other high-profile proceedings: Aafia Siddiqui, who had been convicted of taking up arms against officers of the FBI and the Army in Afghanistan, was sentenced to 86 years on September 23rd; Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, was sentenced to life in prison yesterday; also yesterday,http://www.nikefree.biz, attorneys finished their summation arguments in the case of four men accused of plotting to blow up synagogues in the Bronx.
But the trial scheduled to begin this morning  is by far the most important in terms of symbolism—and potential repercussions. It is the case of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, and on its outcome rest the prospects for other Guantanamo detainee trials, including that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind of 9/11.Advertise on MotherJones.comGhailani's is the perfect test case. The 30-something Tanzanian  (no one seems to know precisely how old he is) stands accused of being  involved in the attack on the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in  1998, bombings that resulted in hundreds of deaths.    This is a crime the American judicial system knows how to try. Three  of those accused in the embassy bombings were tried and convicted in  this same federal court district and are now serving life sentences in a supermax prison in Colorado.
But, ironically,nike free run 2, there is another reason that the Ghailani case is a  test case for Mohammed and the other "high value detainees" in  Guantanamo—those accused of major attacks or of holding high-level  positions in the Al Qaeda network. Ghailani, like Mohammed, Ramzi bin  al-Shibh, and others, was subjected to enhanced interrogation  techniques, more commonly known as torture. Presumably, if it proves  possible nonetheless to try his case in civilian courts, the same would  be true for Mohammed and others.
Moving Ghailani to New York was a brave choice for the Obama  administration, however unnoticed it went by the press and the public  when it happened back in January.  In fact, even now only a handful of  reporters are in attendance at the hearings—a startling absence,http://www.guccisale.biz, since  what's on trial here so far is not so much Ghailani as the issue of  torture itself.
For nearly a year now, the defense has presented challenges to the  prosecution based on the fact of torture. It has made the case that  torture at the hands of the CIA violated Ghailani's constitutional  rights and was grounds for the case to be dismissed. The judge, likely  feeling the weight of the entire judicial system on his shoulders, said  the case could proceed—torture was a matter for another court. For civil  libertarians like me, who have been fighting the torture policy and  also been arguing for civilian trials for terrorists, it was an  intellectually and morally challenging decision: Can we make our peace  with a ruling that validates the civilian system,gucci uk, but at the cost of  allowing a torture victim to appear in court?
Apparently so. And Judge Kaplan has made things a bit easier with his  decision that statements made by Ghailani, either under enhanced  interrogation or by "clean teams," will not be used by the prosecution  to build their case. But this is by no means the end of the impact  torture is having on this trial.
Last week, Ghailani, cleanly shaven, wearing a baby-blue V-neck  sweater, a white collared shirt and a pencil thin black tie, turned  somewhat shyly to face a room full of potential jurors.  Moments later,  the judge informed the jury pool that whether or not Ghailani  appeared in the courtroom during the trial should not affect their  judgment about guilt or innocence. What the judge did not tell the  jurors was that torture was the reason. Ghailani has refused to come to  court through most of the pre-trial hearings and has asked not to have  to be in court for the trial on the grounds that his enhanced  interrogation—and what came afterwards—has given him post-traumatic  stress syndrome, a condition that he argues is exacerbated by the strip  search required on the way into and out of court each day.
And there is more. This trial was supposed to begin on Monday but was  delayed until today over the matter of the prosecution's main witness.   Last month, the government brought to the court a prospective witness  from Tanzania who could allegedly tie Ghailani to the explosives  used in the attack on the embassy there.  The problem is that the  government may have located Abebe only because of information it gleaned  by torturing Ghailani. Allowing the trial to take place, despite  torture,http://www.buygucci.biz, is one thing. Allowing evidence that is the result of the  defendant's torture to be allowed into the proceedings is quite another.  The judge has yet to rule on that question.
As the curtain rises on this case—which I will be covering day by  day—perhaps the most interesting question is whether the torture issue  can truly be put on the back burner to allow the terrorism charge to  come to the fore. At what cost are we trying these cases in civilian  courts? We don't really have a choice—there are no functioning military  commissions to speak of, and indefinite detention is not an option for a  nation bound to the concept of due process. But as the Ghailani trial  makes clear, the real fruit of the poisoned tree is not just tainted  evidence, but a stain on the rule of law itself.Karen GreenbergKaren Greenberg runs NYU's Center on Law and Security and is the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days.
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