A cousin of Ahmed Ghailani testified Wednesday that just weeks before the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa the accused terrorist falsely told his family that he was going to Yemen to seek employment.
In fact, prosecutors have shown, Ghailani fled to Pakistan with several other alleged conspirators the day before the bombings. Prosecutors say the lie is evidence that Ghailani knew he was in a criminal conspiracy, and not a dupe as his lawyers have claimed.
The cousin, Ladha Hussein, a bus driver from Tanzania, said Ghailani was a frequent visitor in the late 1990s to the house in Dar es Salaam he occupied with his mother and father. He said he was immediately skeptical when Ghailani confided that he was going to look for work in Yemen.
"I asked him . . . Yemen?" said Hussein, appearing in federal court in Manhattan where Ghailani is on trial for conspiracy in the bombings. "Life is very difficult there. He said, 'I'm going to try.' "
Hussein's testimony also indicated that, as Ghailani was gathering parts that were used in truck bombs in Tanzania and Kenya, he spread false cover stories. He allegedly told the seller of a truck that he needed it to transport fish, and the seller of pressurized oxygen and acetylene tanks that he needed to cut up scrap metal.
But his cousin said he never talked to his family about any of those businesses. To make a living, Hussein said, Ghailani worked at stores: "He liked to sell clothes, clothing, shoes."
Ghailani, the first Guantánamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court, contends he was an errand boy, used by al-Qaida plotters without knowing a bombing was planned. Subsequently, he became an al-Qaida forger and aide to Osama bin Laden, officials say, but evidence of that is not part of the trial.
Prosecutors said Wednesday the trial, once expected to last past Christmas, is moving rapidly and they expect to finish their case next week. Defense lawyers told the judge that Ghailani will probably not testify on his own behalf.