A U.S. judge refused on Friday to overturn the conviction of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to face a civilian trial, while his lawyers said in a court filing that he was tortured in a U.S. "gulag."
Defense lawyers had asked for a new trial after a mixed verdict in November when a U.S. jury convicted Ghailani on just one of 285 counts relating to his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
Ghailani, a 36-year-old Tanzanian being detained in New York City, was found guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property with deadly explosives.
He is due to be sentenced on Tuesday and faces 20 years to life in prison.
The judge in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan, on Friday refused to overturn Ghailani's conviction or grant him a new trial, suggesting the verdict may have been "a bargain in the end." Eleven jurors may have favored conviction against one for acquittal, Kaplan supposed, and he said the jury may have compromised "so everyone could go home."
Separately, in a filing ahead of the sentencing hearing, Ghailani's lawyers issued a plea asking not to hand a life sentence to Ghailani because, they said, he was repeatedly tortured while in U.S. custody and shared valuable intelligence with interrogators.
Ghailani "was tortured at the hands of the United States Government, while in the custody of the United States Government, and detained in a gulag maintained by the United States Government, known as a "Black Sites," the defense said.
"Gulag" referred to the Soviet Union's system of forced labor camps in which millions were imprisoned and suffered under harsh conditions.
Ghailani was captured in Pakistan in 2004 and held at undisclosed locations until his 2006 transfer to the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His case was "particularly egregious," the defense said, because "our country does not do these things. We are better than that."
The defense did not detail the torture they contend that Ghailani endured, but filed a separate letter under seal where they discuss Ghailani's treatment, the particulars of which are classified.