UK's terror law reviewer backs Obama

Guantanamo Bay detainees an enduring headache for Barack Obama
Guantanamo Bay detainees an enduring headache for Barack Obama

By Alex Stevenson

The man conducting a review of Britain's counter-terrorism legislation has urged US president Barack Obama not to 'blink' over civil trials for Guantanamo detainees.

American news outlets have erupted in frustration after the first 'enemy combatant' to be tried in a civil court, rather than the military tribunals preferred by Mr Obama's predecessor George Bush, resulted in Ahmed Ghailani's acquittal on 284 charges.

He was found guilty of a 285th charge of conspiracy, which could see him spend 20 years in jail, but the White House now faces huge pressure to reconsider its approach as the Guantanamo Bay prison remains open.

Lord Carlile said Mr Obama's motive - of ensuring that proper standards of criminal evidence are applied to these cases - should not be abandoned to political pressure.

"The exclusion of evidence in the case which has just finished is exactly the kind of exclusion that would happen in British courts," he told the Today programme.

"Criticism is merely political and pays scant respect to a sophisticated justice system."

Lord Carlile said he believed Mr Obama's credibility would be weakened significantly if he caved in.

"It is the duty of the president of the United States, and it ought to be the duty of the responsible media, to... be pillars of what is right and not merely weathercocks of either public opinion, or the opinion of a small oppositional group of politicians," he added.

"Here we have a situation in which a proper trial in proper circumstances has taken place. A result has been reached which apparently condemns this man to at least 20 years in prison. I find it very difficult as a British lawyer to see what is wrong with that. I think there's great cause for satisfaction."

Ghailani was convicted for his role in planning attacks on US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 2001, in which 224 people died.

Other civilian trials are ongoing, as the terror suspects' lawyers bid to repeat the relative success of those representing Ghailani.

"At the start of this trial we believed that Ahmed was truly innocent of all these charges," one of Ghailani's lawyers, Peter Quijano, said. "We still truly believe he is innocent of all these charges."


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.