NEW YORK — The U.S. government has decided not to seek the death penalty against a Guantanamo detainee charged in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
A letter the government released Monday advised U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan that Attorney General Eric Holder had told prosecutors not to seek the death penalty in the September 2010 trial of Ahmed Ghailani. The letter was dated Friday.
Authorities allege Ghailani was a bomb maker, document forger and aide to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The attacks at embassies in Tanzania and Kenya killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Ghailani was brought to the United States in June. The Tanzanian, captured in Pakistan in 2004, was held in Guantanamo since 2006. He is the first Guantanamo detainee to be brought to a U.S. civilian court for trial.
Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that other defendants in the embassy bombings case have received life prison sentences or will not be subject to the death penalty because the U.S. agreed not to seek it as a condition of their extradition.
"Given those circumstances and other factors in this case, the attorney general authorized the U.S. attorney to seek a life sentence," Miller said.
However, the government did seek the death penalty against two of four defendants convicted in 2001 of conspiracy in the attacks. A jury declined to vote for death though, leaving the men with life prison sentences.
A message left with a lawyer for Ghailani was not immediately returned Monday.
Prosecutors have said the case against Ghailiani will be similar to the 2001 trial when evidence included extensive discussion about al-Qaida, bin Laden and techniques used by terrorists.
Bin Laden, who remains a fugitive, is a defendant in the case as well.
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