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Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Back issues
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Ghailani Prosecutors, Defense Rest|After Squabble Over Phone Records

MANHATTAN (CN) - Prosecution and defense both rested their cases Wednesday in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court. Prosecutor Michael Farbiarz concluded his presentation by exhibiting and solemnly reading from pages of court documents listing names of the more than 200 people who died in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa. Ghailani faces 286 charges, including murder and conspiracy.

In his last cross-examination, defense attorney Steve Zissou grilled a paralegal for the prosecution about charts he had made, depicting calls from a cell phone in the name of "Ahmed Khalfan," days before the bombing.

A stipulation shows that Rashid Saleh Hamed, another terror suspect taken into custody of the Tanzanian National Police, bought the cell phone under that name.

After asking if the paralegal had consulted with government attorneys before making the charts, Zissou suggested that the prosecution may have directed the paralegal to design the illustrations in a way that would confuse jurors into thinking that Ghailani made incriminating calls before the bombings.

"Certainly you weren't trying to mislead the jury?" Zissou asked, before a sustained objection prevented the question from being answered.

The charts show that "Ahmed Khalfan" placed several calls days before the bombing to "Fahad Moh'd," believed to be U.S. Embassy bombing suspect Fahid Mohamed Ally; to the Hilltop Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, where co-conspirators were believed to have met; to the Runda Estates, a residence where FBI agents discovered explosive residue; and to Egypt, where the al-Qaida branch that took responsibility for the bombings was believed to have resided.

The phone records revealed 21 outgoing calls placed from the beginning of the month until the Aug. 7, 1998 bombings, and none made after the attacks.

During cross-examination, Zissou took every opportunity to emphasize the name of the cell phone's owner Rashid Saleh Hamed, though doing so drew objections from prosecuting attorneys because Hamed was not named in the direct examination.

After one objection, Zissou countered that the stipulation already had been agreed upon between the parties and involved information relevant to the cell phone records.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan replied, "I don't care if it involves the selection of the next Holy See." Kaplan told Zissou to save that line of inquiry for closing arguments.

During the defense's brief case, attorney Peter Quijano read from stipulations rebutting key government testimony.

On Monday, an FBI witness testified that he had found a detonator in a locked armoire cabinet in Ghailani's residence.

But according to the newly entered stipulation, Valentine Mlowola, an inspector for the Tanzanian National Police, did not find any blasting cap inside the armoire when the TNP inspected the building earlier, and he failed to secure the building before the FBI arrived.

According to court documents, Mlowola also botched the arrest, detention and interrogation of a proposed government witness, whom Judge Kaplan barred from testifying. In his ruling, Kaplan wrote that witness was not credible in part because he had been arrested without a warrant, had not been informed of the charges against him and had received implied threats.

Quijano also submitted for evidence the purchase order on the Mobitel phone in the name of "Ahmed Khalfan." Its customer declaration was signed by "Rashid Saleh." Another stipulation showed that the seller had identified a photograph of Saleh as the man who bought the phone.

Trial resumes on Monday with summations.

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