A former Tanzanian housemate of accused embassy bombing conspirator Ahmed Ghailani testified Thursday that Ghailani took a mysterious trip to Pakistan before allegedly embarking on the bomb plot, but faced tough cross examination over the role of money and the Tanzanian national police in his testimony.
Housemate Kasim Juma Abdalla, was the second witness to testify that Ghailani disappeared for five or six months in 1997 after saying he was going to Pakistan - testimony that helps prosecutors suggest Ghailani may have been radicalized abroad in the lead-up to the bombing and rebuts Ghailani's claim he was a dupe of other plotters.
"He told me he was going to Pakistan to study," said Abdalla.
Ghailani, the first former Guantanamo detainee to be tried in civilian court, is charged with conspiracy and murder in the August 1998, bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. He has been linked to the purchase of bomb components, but claims he was an errand boy in the dark about the terror plan.
In addition to the trip to Pakistan, Abdalla said a few weeks before the bombings that Ghailani said he was going to Germany. That contradicted evidence he fled to Pakistan the day before the bombing, and had told family members he was going to Yemen - suggesting he was making up cover stories.
But, in a pattern repeated with several other Tanzanian witnesses, defense lawyer Peter Quijano confronted Abdalla with FBI reports dating back to 1998 suggesting his Pakistan and Germany claims were new. Abdalla said he did not remember making contradictory claims to the FBI.
He did, however, acknowledge a delegation of Tanzanian National Police officers has accompanied the trial witnesses to the United States and is keeping an eye on them in a hotel in New York. He also said he is getting $110 a day as a witness, and makes about $200 a month in Tanzania.
An earlier witness testified one of the Tanzanian police officers seized his cellphone when he tried to call defense lawyers, and only gave it back when prosecutors intervened.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan barred testimony from Joseph Abebe, a key prosecution witness from Tanzania who allegedly sold dynamite to Ghailani, after finding Abebe wasn't credible, and had faced pressure from the national police.