MANHATTAN (CN) - Addressing a jury that had been steeped in references to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida for more than a month of trial, defense attorney Peter Quijano cautioned jurors against letting the words "al-Qaida" inflame their passions and cloud their judgment. "To wrongly convict Ahmed Ghailani would not be justice, but yet another tragedy our country suffered at the hands of al-Qaida," Quijano said. "You must be strong and guard against a natural fear and desire for retribution for all al-Qaida has done to us and what they wish to do. ... To do so would allow al-Qaida to win."
The first Guantanamo detainee to face a civilian trial, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was arrested in Pakistan in 2004. He is accused of conspiring and participating in truck bombings of U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed more than 200 people and injured thousands on Aug. 7, 1998.
"Ahmed did not know," Quijano said, opening his summation without an introduction. Quoting Scopes trial attorney Clarence Darrow, Quijano said that Ghailani's knowledge is central to his case because "conspiracy is the crime of thought."
"I have heard the government describe a trial. ... I had to wonder what trial they were describing," Quijano said, asking whether it was a "parallel trial" on some "parallel universe."
Prosecutor Harry Chernoff said in his summation that Ahmed Ghailani plotted with known al-Qaida members in multiple locations, bought the trucks and gas tanks used in the Embassy bombings and boarded a plane to Pakistan the day before "his fires" immolated innocents.
Chernoff said this series of events was supported by incriminating phone records, explosive residue on Ghailani's clothing, Ghailani's fingerprints found in bomb factories, a string of credible witnesses who "never recanted," and flight records showing him boarding and landing with senior al-Qaida operatives.
The "crown jewel" of the government's evidence against his client, Quijano said, was a detonator found in what one witness identified as Ghailani's locked armoire.
Quijano, to audible surprise in the courtroom, challenged the credibility of each of these arguments and pieces of evidence.
The detonator, he said, was discovered in a third search of a building on Amani Street in Dar es Salaam, after the first two searches broke "almost every single rule" of evidence collecting.
Quijano quipped that the first searches could serve as textbook examples at the FBI Academy in Quantico on "how not to conduct a search."
The house was left unsecured, agents did not wear Tyvek suits, and clothes were bagged together before being sent for chemical residue testing "with a total disregard to cross-contamination," Quijano said.
In contrast, FBI protocol was followed "to the letter" in searches of two other compounds on Ilala Street and at the Runda Estate, where explosive residue was found without a link to Ghailani, Quijano said.
While the Amani Street compound was left unlocked, a Suzuki Samurai belonging to Rashid Saleh Hamed was found outside, Quijano said.
Quijano said that stipulations show that Hamed had fled the Tanzanian National Police before the original search, then turned himself in after the second search took place the next day.
Before the FBI and its "wrecking crew" returned for a third and final search, Hamed had unfettered access to the armoire, Quijano said.