Judge Blocks Key Testimony in Terrorism Trial

Judge Blocks Key Testimony in Terrorism Trial

The trial for alleged Al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was delayed until next week, after a federal judge thwarted the U.S. Attorney's plans by barring the testimony of a key prosecution witness.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan issued the ruling in Manhattan federal court this morning, just "minutes" before the the trial of Ghailani -- who's accused of participating in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania -- was set to begin

The witness, Hussein Abebe, would have testified that he sold Ghailani the TNT that was used for the bombing in Tanzania. According to the New York Times, Abebe was a "giant witness for the government" and his testimony was the prosecution's only way to link Ghailani and the TNT for the jury.

But Ghailani's lawyers argued that Abebe's testimony was illegally obtained and that prosecutors only identified their key witness from statements Ghailani made while he was tortured and coerced by the CIA.

Ghailani, who was arrested by the CIA in 2004 and spent almost five years in custody at Guantánamo Bay, will be the first Gitmo prisoner to be tried in civilian court. Proceedings are now set to open next week, which will buy the government time to appeal Kaplan's ruling.

[shernandez@villagevoice.com]


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