Embassy Bombers Sentenced to Life Without Parole
The last of the four defendants, naturalized U.S. citizen Wadih El-Hage of Arlington, Texas, was sentenced this afternoon at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He had opted to make a statement before the court.
During his 30-minute remarks, El-Hage asserted his innocence, saying “the killing of innocent people is radical, extreme and cannot be tolerated by any religion, principles or values.”
El-Hage was a former personal secretary to bin Laden in Sudan and Kenya in the early 1990s, the Associated Press reports. He is the only U.S. citizen charged in the bombings.
Judge Leonard B. Sand ordered each of the men to pay $33 million — $7 million to families of the bombing victims and $26 million to the U.S. government.
The bombings — which came within minutes of each other on Aug. 7, 1998 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya — killed 231 people, including 12 Americans.
Prosecutors allege the four are part of the al-Qaida terrorist network headed by bin Laden, who the U.S. regards as the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 5,000 people.
Security was tight today around the courthouse, which is located just blocks from the Trade Center wreckage.
Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 28, was the first to be sentenced today. He and Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali, 24, were also given life terms for alleged direct involvement in the attacks.
A Tanzanian himself, Mohamed was convicted of helping to build the bomb that struck the U.S. embassy in Dar Es Salaam. Eleven people were killed and 85 injured in the blast.
Al-Owhali, a Saudi Arabian, was convicted for his role in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi — a blast that killed 213 people, including 12 Americans.
The two men faced the death penalty under a 1996 federal law that allows prosecutors to seek capital punishment in terrorist murder cases. That same law led to the execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in June.
Thirty-six year-old Mohamed Sadeek Odeh of Jordan was the last of the three defendants sentenced in the morning session.
Speaking in court, Odeh criticized the bombing of Afghanistan the Clinton administration initiated in August 1998, in the wake of the embassy attacks.
After Odeh’s sentencing, his lawyer, Ed Wilford, told reporters Odeh “was a soldier in the military wing of al-Qaida.” He said Odeh considered the embassy attacks as a strike against the U.S. for its support of Israel.
Odeh was convicted of participating in the plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, but not charged with a direct role in the bombing.