State Dept. defends terror verdict after defendant convicted on one charge

The State Department on Thursday defended a federal jury's decision to convict a former Guantanamo Bay detainee on only one of 285 charges against him. 

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley said that the civilian court case against Ahmed Ghailani, a figure in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, exemplified the U.S.'s commitment to the rule of law. Ghailani was convicted of conspiring to damage or destroy United States property, a verdict one Republican called a "miscarriage of justice."

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"A jury of 12 Americans convicted Ahmed Ghailani of a terrorist conspiracy. Miscarriage of justice? No, it's called the rule of law," Crowley said on his Twitter account. "The Ghailani case shows America practices what it preaches, protecting our national security through a transparent legal system."

Crowley is one of the first Obama administration officials to publicly defend the verdict, which has angered Republicans.

GOP lawmakers have long sparred with the administration over the Ghailani case as part of its broader argument against civilian trials for terror suspects, a fundamental part of President Obama's national security strategy.

"I am disgusted at the total miscarriage of justice today in Manhattan’s federal civilian court," Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement Wednesday. "This tragic verdict demonstrates the absolute insanity of the Obama Administration’s decision to try al-Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts."

The verdict against Ghailani carries a minimum sentence of 20 years, but federal prosecutors are expected to pursue life without parole.