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Jury to begin deliberations in trial of Gitmo detainee

From Christina Romano, CNN
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in civilian court.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in civilian court.
  • Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani faces charges of conspiracy and murder in attacks in Kenya and Tanzania
  • Defense attorney says Ghailani was used by al Qaeda
  • The prosecution calls the defendant a mass murderer
  • The blasts at U.S. embassies killed 224 people

New York (CNN) -- The jury is expected to begin deliberations Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of conspiring to bomb U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani faces charges of conspiracy and murder in the attacks in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The bombings killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans, and wounded thousands of others.

His defense attorney told the jury Tuesday that Ghailani was used by al Qaeda, which claimed responsibility.

"Call him a dupe, call him a pawn -- used, set up like a bowling pin, in the immortal words of Jerry Garcia," defense attorney Peter Quijano said. "But don't call him guilty."

The prosecution, which made its closing arguments on Monday, accused the 36-year-old Tanzanian of mass murder. Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Chernoff said Ghailani played a key role in securing the trucks that carried the bomb in Tanzania and securing other materials.

"He is a mass murderer who has the blood of hundreds on his hands," Chernoff told the jury.

The trial, which began in October, has moved more quickly than originally anticipated. Jurors listened to weeks of testimony from witnesses who were flown in from Kenya and Tanzania to testify, and jurors looked at dozens of government exhibits.

The defense did not call any witnesses and the defendant did not take the stand. At the onset of the trial, the presiding federal judge barred prosecutors from calling a crucial witness, with the judge saying the government had obtained the identity and location of the witness through Ghailani when he was held and interrogated at a jail overseas run by the CIA.

Ghailani is the first detainee who's been held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to be tried in civilian court. He was captured in Pakistan in 2004, moved to Guantanamo in 2006 and transferred to a federal prison in New York last year.

Throughout the trial, the defense painted Ghailani as a local who knew how to get things done in Tanzania and whose knowledge al Qaeda exploited unbeknown to him.

The defense also questioned the witnesses' recall of events that happened so long ago, and portions of the FBI's original investigations in Kenya and Tanzania.

Prosecutor Chernoff said what the defense chiefly did on cross-examination was attack witness after witness. "Did it pay off? No," he told the jury.

The government rejected the claim that Ghailani was duped into participating, pointing to evidence of his activities in Tanzania in obtaining gas tanks and his presence in Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, Kenya, with other members of the bomb plot at various times.

"This is Ghailani," Chernoff said Monday, pointing at the defendant, who at times appeared to be joking and laughing with his attorneys when the jury was not present. "This is al Qaeda, this is a terrorist. This is a killer. I ask that you return a verdict of guilty on all counts."