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Landmark terror trial continues in New York

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Ghailani is the first Guantanamo Bay detainee tried on terror charges in civilian court
  • He is accused of being part of the bombings of United States embassies in Africa
  • A key witness for the government is barred from testifying, a judge rules

New York (CNN) -- The landmark trial of Ahmed Ghailani continues Tuesday with prosecutors trying to move past a judge's decision to bar a key witness from testifying.

Ghailani, who is accused of being part of the deadly 1998 bombings of United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, is the first former Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried on terror charges in civilian court.

Ghailani was indicted on a total of 286 charges, including allegedly conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda members to kill Americans anywhere in the world.

He also faces 224 separate counts of murder, one for each person killed in the embassy attacks.

Ghailani was listed on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list from the time it was created in 2001 until he was captured in Pakistan in 2004.

Two years later, he was taken to the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities in Cuba, where he remained until the Obama administration transferred him on June 9 to the New York federal court to stand trial for his alleged role in the embassy bombing.

Last week, the prosecution suffered a setback when Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that Hussain Abebe, a key witness, could not testify.

Ghailani told the CIA about Abede while agents were interrogating him. Defense attorneys had argued that Ghailani identified the witness after harsh treatment by the CIA, court documents show.

Kaplan ruled that the witness would not testify because of how Ghailani was treated during the interrogation.

But in court documents the judge did not specify what happened to Ghailani during the CIA interrogation.

"[The] government has elected not to litigate the details of Ghailani's treatment while in CIA custody," Kaplan wrote in his ruling.

"In these circumstances, the Constitution does not permit [Hussain] Abebe to testify in this criminal trial," the judge added.