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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Defense Probes Inconsistencies|With Transcripts in Ghailani Trial

MANHATTAN (CN) - Two brothers who sold the truck used to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya testified Monday they did not recognize a picture of defendant Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a civil court. In cross-examinations, Ghailani's attorneys have suggested that witnesses told one version of events to FBI interrogators, and another to jurors. Although defense attorneys may not submit FBI transcripts as evidence, interview records can be used to "refresh the memory" of witnesses - several of whom have denied saying the words attributed to them.

Ghailani is charged with conspiring and participating in the attack in Nairobi and another nearly simultaneous one on the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The two bombings killed more than 200 people.

Ghailani faces life imprisonment if convicted, and is subject to indefinite detention as an enemy combatant even if he is acquitted.

On Monday, brothers Said Omar and Omar Omar appeared to contradict FBI interviews - and each other.

Both brothers said that they sold the truck used in the Nairobi bombing to Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan and Fahid Mohamed Ally, both of whom were reported killed in a drone missile attack last year.

Said Omar, a farmer and butcher from Mombasa, Kenya, said he bought a Toyota Dyna pickup to transport poultry. He said Swedan asked to buy it after they left a mosque after evening prayers.

In elegant English, Kenyan-born Said Omar said that Swedan circled the truck "twice or thrice" before asking if it was up for sale.

"Yes," Said said he told him, "if you pay me $10,000 U.S., I'll give you the truck." That figure was "almost double" the truck's original price, Said said.

According to Said, Swedan immediately reached into his pocket to indicate his willingness to pay for it.

But Swedan said he wanted to know if the truck could carry heavy loads uphill because he wanted the truck to transport food for "Islamic relief" near Nairobi.

Said replied that he had used the truck to transport 3.5 tons of chicken on hilly roads.

Said Omar claimed that he set up the deal for the truck, but his brother, Omar Salim Omar, brokered it because he knew Swedan better.

Testifying through a Swahili interpreter, Omar Salim Omar recounted the incident differently.

Omar said that Swedan asked him to sell the truck first, but Omar rebuffed him, saying, "It wasn't for sale. ... He continued to try, but I refused."

Omar said he reconsidered after Swedan came "one or two days" later and offered a "higher price," starting with 200,000 Kenyan shillings, then raising it to 400,000 shillings.

"I told him if he offered 550,000, I'd talk to my brother and see," Omar said. And Swedan agreed.

Although neither brother implicated Ghailani in the transaction, defense attorney Peter Quijano grilled both witnesses about apparent inconsistencies between their testimonies and FBI statements.

Said Omar denied telling FBI interrogators that he had pleaded with his brother not to sell the truck to Sheikh.

Later, Omar Salim Omar acknowledged that he was "afraid" he and his brother would be suspected of participating in the bombing because he did not finish turning over the paperwork. But he insisted that he had transferred the truck's official "logbook" to Swedan's friend Fahid before the Embassy bombing.

Although Sheikh Ahmed Swedan is believed to not be alive to testify, his younger brother, Salim Ahmed Salim Swedan, took the stand on Monday, corroborating Omar Omar's statement that Fahid received the logbook before the bombing.

Salim Swedan said he was "disappointed" when his brother, Sheikh Ahmed, told him that he was moving from Kenya to Yemen on business. Salim said he decided to escort his brother and family to the "bus stage." He said he did not realize at the time that his brother would bomb the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.

Salim testified that Sheikh never returned to Mombasa after the bombings, even after their mother died. Salim said he finally received a call from him in 2004, but by then, he "wasn't happy at all" to hear from him.

Neither the government nor the defense asked Salim what happened to Sheikh, or mentioned reports of his being killed in a drone attack.

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