Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Gets Life Sentence Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a U.S. federal court, has been sentenced to life in prison. He was convicted last fall on a single count of conspiracy stemming from the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa. Host Melissa Block speaks to NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, who was at the sentencing hearing.
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Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Gets Life Sentence

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Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Gets Life Sentence

Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Gets Life Sentence

Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Gets Life Sentence

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/133218469/133218448" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a U.S. federal court, has been sentenced to life in prison. He was convicted last fall on a single count of conspiracy stemming from the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa. Host Melissa Block speaks to NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, who was at the sentencing hearing.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Dina Temple-Raston was in the Manhattan courtroom for sentencing today. And, Dina, what was the scene today?

DINA TEMPLE: And during most of the courtroom session, which went on for about three hours, he sat with his hands gripping the edge of the defense table. And the victims came up from the benches in the back, one by one, and addressed Ghailani directly, talking about who had they had lost what they'd experienced back in August 1998 when those bombings happened. And Ghailani never really turned back to look at them.

BLOCK: And what did the judge say when he read out this sentence?

TEMPLE: Well, Ghailani stood up with his lawyers and the judge said that he was going to be sentenced to life in prison. And the judge said, actually without parole - life means life. And Ghailani just bowed his head and managed to smile to his defense team. And that was about it.

G: Terrorism, pure and simple. And he said that he had to provide a sentence that made crystal clear that terrorism has serious consequences, and that's why it was such a harsh sentence.

BLOCK: Now, Dina, last year, the jury in this case had acquitted Ahmed Ghailani of more than 200 other charges. He was convicted on just this one conspiracy count. And some at the time saw that as a prime example of why these cases should be kept out of civilian court. Does this maximum life sentence change that debate?

TEMPLE: Well, right now, even with this tough sentence, that's a hard sell. The idea was that the jury had only convicted him on one count, and therefore juries are unpredictable and they don't want that for Guantanamo detainees - critics say no. Republicans are against bringing any detainees to the U.S. for trial, and Congress has actually passed legislation that basically won't pay for criminal - civilian trials for Guantanamo detainees. And that's really tied the administration's hands.

BLOCK: So what happens now then to the detainees who are still at Guantanamo?

TEMPLE: And then, on top of that, we also expect that there's going to be some sort of announcement about military-like trials, military commissions is what they call them, that they'll actually give the go ahead to get those going again. And those had sort of been stopped while the Obama administration was looking at how it could close Guantanamo.

BLOCK: Okay, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston in New York. Dina, thank you.

TEMPLE: You're very welcome.

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