Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan rejected the defense's request for leniency, saying "the very purpose of the crime was to create terror by causing death and destruction," The New York Times
Ghailani's lawyers said their client deserved a lesser sentence because he was tortured while being held at a secret CIA-run camp. But the judge said that no matter what Ghailani endured while in custody, "the impact on him pales in comparison to the suffering and the horror he and his confederates caused."
Kaplan also ordered Ghailani to pay a $33 million fine.
The twin bomb blasts in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans, and wounded thousands.
Ghailani, 36, was convicted in November of just one major count of a 286-count indictment: conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property with explosives. The charge carried a penalty of 20 years to life in prison.
Ghailani, a Tanzanian, was captured in Pakistan in 2004 after training with al-Qaeda and serving as Osama bin Laden's bodyguard. In 2006, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before being moved to New York for trial in 2009.
The decision to try Ghailani in civilian court was criticized by those who believe enemy combatants should face justice only in military tribunals.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Ghailani's sentencing was a vindication of the "strength of the American justice system," The Washington Post
"As this case demonstrates," Holder said in a statement, "we will not rest in bringing to justice terrorists who seek to harm the American people, and we will use every tool available to the government to do so."