A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Ahmed Ghailani to life in prison for his role in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. 

Ghailani, 36, was the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to receive a civilian trial. He was convicted late last year of one charge for conspiring to destroy government buildings. In addition to his role in the bombings, he served as a bodyguard for al-Qaeda chief Osama bin-Laden.


"Today’s sentencing of Ahmed Ghailani shows yet again the strength of the American justice system in holding terrorists accountable for their actions," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "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."

Republicans on Capitol Hill strongly protested the verdict when it was handed down last November, calling it a near acquittal.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said Tuesday he was "relieved" that Ghailani received life problems his issues with the trial. Smith added that the case should serve as a warning to scrap the idea of civilian trials for terror suspects.

“While the administration will no doubt try to spin the verdict as a success, the truth is this case was a close call," he said in a statement. "If Ghailani had been acquitted of just one more count, he would have been considered innocent of these heinous crimes."

The Ghailani case was closely watched as a model for future civilian trials of terror suspects, but the Obama administration has made little progress on that front.

President Obama has said he supports both civilian trials and military commission trials for terror suspects, but more than two years into his presidency, he has not been able to reach an agreement with Congress to transfer suspects away from Guantanamo Bay and into the courts.

-- This post was updated at 3:55 p.m.