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Ghailani gives reasons for seeking leniency

A drawing shows Ahmed Ghailani, center left, with

A drawing shows Ahmed Ghailani, center left, with his defense team Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan. (Nov. 17, 2010) Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Al-Qaida embassy bombing conspirator Ahmed Ghailani is seeking leniency at his Jan. 25 sentencing because he was mistreated by the CIA - and because he provided "substantial assistance" to anti-terror efforts by spilling information after he was mistreated.

The defense strategy, contained in a sealed sentencing memorandum, was revealed in court papers filed by Manhattan federal prosecutors that urge U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan to reject arguments comparing Ghailani to a cooperating witness or informant, and to sentence him to life in prison.

"The defendant was a central participant in an al-Qaida terror cell that killed hundreds of people . . . spread fear and terror and by virtue of its monumental scale and its indiscriminate mass murder, evinced extraordinary brutality, hatred and evil - well beyond the baseline of first-degree murder," prosecutors wrote.

Ghailani, accused in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that took 224 lives, was convicted in November on one count of conspiring to destroy U.S. buildings, but acquitted on 284 counts, including all charges that he acted with an intent to kill. He has asked the judge to dismiss the conviction as inconsistent with the acquittals.

Prosecutors conceded at trial that Ghailani was subjected to abusive interrogation after his capture. Held first at CIA black sites and later at Guantánamo, he was the first ex-detainee to be tried in a civilian court.

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