Attorney General Eric Holder scored a victory on Tuesday when al-Qaeda member Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was sentenced to life in prison by a federal judge.
Ghailani was convicted of participating in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. From 2004 to 2009, he was held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. He was the first former Guantanamo detainee to be tried in the civilian court system.
Holder has come under fire for his pledge to try certain detainees in federal courts,as opposed to military tribunals. Conservatives also attacked Holder when Ghailani was convicted recently on only one of 285 counts.
“Today’s sentencing of Ahmed Ghailani shows yet again the strength of the American justice system in holding terrorists accountable for their actions,” Holder said in a prepared statement. “Ghailani will now rightly serve the rest of his life in prison for his role in the attacks against American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 dead, including 12 Americans.”
He added, “Ghailani is the fifth person to be convicted in federal court in connection with the embassy bombings, and we hope this life sentence brings some measure of justice to the victims of these attacks and their families and friends who have waited so long for this day. Hundreds of individuals have now been convicted in federal court of terrorism or terrorism-related crimes since Sept. 11, 2001. As this case demonstrates, we will not rest in bringing to justice terrorists who seek to harm the American people, and we will use every tool available to the government to do so.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara also expressed satisfaction. “Today, in Manhattan federal court, justice was served,” Bharara said. “Ahmed Ghailani is a remorseless terrorist, mass murderer and al-Qaeda operative, and now he will spend the rest of his life in prison.” Bharara said the sentence was fitting for “those devastating and despicable attacks.”
He continued, “This was a difficult case for a number of reasons. Our goal all along was to hold Ghailani accountable for his heinous conduct, and, no matter the obstacles, to see to it that he would receive the punishment he deserved. Today, our goal was achieved, as Ahmed Ghailani will never again breathe free air.”