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Government Wrapping Up Its Case|In First Gitmo Detainee Civil Trial

MANHATTAN (CN) - The government's case against suspected terrorist Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is expected to conclude Wednesday morning. Ghailani's attorney Steve Zissou said Monday that the defense will open its case by calling Valentine Mlowola, former senior superintendent for the Tanzanian National Police. Mlowola's botched interrogation of prospective government witness Hussein Abebe led U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, before the trial began, to bar prosecutors from calling Abebe to testify.

Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court, faces 286 counts of planning and executing truck bombings of U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, which killed more than 200 people on Aug. 7, 1998.

Prosecutor Michael Farbiarz said on Monday that he believed he would wind up his case by noon Wednesday.

In barring Abebe's testimony from the trial, Judge Kaplan wrote: "It perhaps bears mention that the Tanzanian arrest, detention and interrogation of Abebe appears to have violated several provisions of the Tanzanian Criminal Procedure Act of 1985."

In a footnote, Kaplan added: "The warrantless arrest appears to have been unlawful ... Abebe was not informed of the grounds for the arrest until he was in Zanzibar, many hours after he was taken into custody. ... The failure to take Abebe before a court following his arrest and, in any case, the apparent failure to report his arrest to the nearest magistrate both also appear to have been unlawful.

"The period during which a suspect in custody may be questioned by police is limited to four hours and may be extended for a period not exceeding eight hours ... periods that were exceeded in Zanzibar. And the questioning was not recorded."

Noting that an "implicit threat" loomed over Abebe to cooperate with Tanzanian National Police officials or risk prosecution, Kaplan concluded: "Abebe's motive in testifying is purely to avoid prosecution and other feared adverse consequences to himself."

Ghailani's attorneys have questioned the role of other Tanzanian National Police officers in the treatment of government witnesses.

One witness testified under cross-examination that a TNP officer yelled at him and confiscated his phone after he said that he would exercise his right to meet with defense attorneys before testifying.

Defense attorneys said they may call as many as 19 witnesses, mostly FBI agents, in an effort to impeach the testimony of government witnesses.

In several cross-examinations, defense attorneys have suggested that government witnesses changed their stories from the time they were interrogated by the FBI to when they appeared in court.

Judge Kaplan's questioning of witnesses revealed that TNP officials were often the only Swahili translators available during FBI interrogations in Tanzania.

Both parties will meet without the jury present today to discuss whether FBI interviews can be used to impeach the testimony of government witnesses. The trial will resume on Wednesday.

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