Jurors have delivered mixed a verdict in the first civilian trial of a Guantanamo detainee.
After hitting a snag earlier this week when one juror said she felt threatened by others, the panel on Wednesday delivered a guilty verdict against Ahmed Ghailani on only one of nearly 300 counts against him.
The Manhattan jury deliberated over seven days before finding Ghailani guilty of just one count of conspiracy to destroy U.S. buildings. He was acquitted of multiple other counts including murder and murder conspiracy.
Prosecutors said Ghailani helped an al-Qaida cell buy a truck and components for explosives used in a suicide bombing in his native Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998. The attack in Dar es Salaam and a nearly simultaneous bombing in Nairobi, Kenya, killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
The day before the bombings, Ghailani fled by boarding a one-way flight to Pakistan under an alias, prosecutors said. While on the run, he spent time in Afghanistan as a cook and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and later as a document forger for al-Qaida, authorities said.
Ghailani was captured in 2004 after being on the run for years. He was previously indicted for his role in al Qaeda's most successful attack prior to September 11, 2001 -- the August 7, 1998, embassy bombings. According to a one-page biography prepared by U.S. intelligence officials and published on the Defense Department's web site, Ghailani knew "many of the Africans involved in the attacks." One of al Qaeda's embassy bombers "asked Ghailani at various times to help the group purchase a truck, gas cylinders, and TNT that would later be used to construct a car bomb, requests Ghailani fulfilled." Ghailani left Africa for Afghanistan the day before the embassy bombings, but only after he helped his al Qaeda compatriots prepare for the attacks. More than 200 people were killed, including twelve Americans. In Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department's short biography, Ghailani "attended regular training at one of al Qaeda's camps and served as a rank-and-file soldier." He became a cook for Osama bin Laden and then, in 2001, joined a group of his fellow Africans "who ran al Qaeda's document forgery office in Kandahar, Afghanistan." After the Taliban fell, Ghailani fled first to Karachi, Pakistan, and then South Waziristan. During this time, Ghailani worked for Abu Hamza Rabia, who was one of al Qaeda's chief operational commanders until he was killed in a U.S. airstrike in December 2005. Among other plots, Rabia was involved in at least two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. While working for Rabia, Ghailani became one of al Qaeda's top facilitators and "forged or altered passports for many al Qaeda members." According to the DOD's biography, "Most of his work involved substituting photos in passports and modifying visa stamps." Because of his work on behalf of Rabia, and the fact that he "lived at various houses in North and South Waziristan in 2003 and 2004," Ghailani met with "many high-and low-level al Qaeda operatives." This, coupled with his involvement in the embassy bombings, made him a valuable detainee for the CIA.
Correction: I originally incorrectly reported there were 286 charges against Ghailani.