WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday slammed the Obama administration for the acquittal of a man once held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on almost all of the charges for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 36, a Tanzanian from Zanzibar, had been accused of conspiring in the al Qaeda bomb attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
While accused of 285 counts of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy, he was only convicted by a jury of one count of conspiring to damage or destroy U.S. property. Ghailani will face a minimum of 20 years in prison and possibly the maximum life in prison.
“Yesterday’s acquittal in a federal court ... is all the proof we need that the administration’s approach to prosecuting terrorists has been deeply misguided and indeed potentially harmful as a matter of national security,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
The Ghailani case was widely considered a test case for President Barack Obama’s policy of prosecuting key terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison in traditional U.S. criminal courts rather than special military commissions.
Republicans and some of Obama’s fellow Democrats have demanded that terrorism suspects held at the island military prison be prosecuted in military tribunals because they are “enemy combatants” who had attacked or plotted against the United States.
McConnell said the American people wanted terrorism suspects tried in military courts at the Guantanamo prison or detained indefinitely “if they cannot be tried without jeopardizing national security.” (Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Bill Trott)