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Home / Press Release / Trump Administration to Try Al Qaeda Terror Suspect in Federal Court
July 21, 2017

Trump Administration to Try Al Qaeda Terror Suspect in Federal Court

Washington, D.C. – In response to reports that the Trump Administration has brought al Qaeda terror suspect Ali Charaf Damache to the United States to be tried in federal court, rather than sending him to languish in detention at Guantanamo Bay, Human Rights First’s Raha Wala issued the following statement:

"The Trump Administration today made the smart decision to use trusted and tested federal courts to handle this terrorism suspect. Federal courts have a proven record of being able to handle complex international terrorism cases while avoiding the legal and policy mess that we’ve seen at Guantanamo for well over a decade.”

Ali Charaf Damache faces terrorism charges as he is suspected for helping in a failed attempt to murder a Swedish cartoonist who produced cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed. Damache appeared in federal court in Philadelphia on Friday after being transferred to the United States from Spain.

Data collected by Human Rights First in a FOIA request from the Department of Justice shows that federal civilian criminal courts have convicted more than 580 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. Military commissions have convicted only eight, three of which have been overturned completely and one partially. Federal court convictions include those resulting from investigations of terrorist acts and of criminal acts by those with an identified link to international terrorism.

Human Rights First notes that federal courts, unlike military commissions, can try suspects for offenses involving fraud, immigration, firearms, and drugs. In addition, convictions for the crime of material support before a military commission, rather than a federal court, have been overturned on appeal because these crimes have not generally been considered war crimes. While Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, was convicted of terrorism-related offenses just over a year after he was captured, the military commission trial for the alleged 9/11 perpetrators has remained mired in pre-trial hearings since May 2012.

National security leaders and former government officials—including president George W. Bush, and other officials who helped set up the detention center—have supported closing Guantanamo because they’ve determined that it’s operation is contrary to the national interest. Human Rights First urges President Trump to continue efforts to close the facility.

For more information or to speak with Wala contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org.