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Taliban Won’t Hand Over Osama Bin Laden

The Taliban’s remarks followed yesterday’s conviction of four men accused of plotting the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people in 1998. Two men could face the death penalty.

Taliban leaders called the ruling “unfair,” and said they would never hand over bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire whom U.S. prosecutors call the mastermind behind the attacks.

“He is a great holy warrior of Islam and a great benefactor of the Afghan people,” said Abdul Anan Himat, a senior official at the Taliban’s information ministry in an interview with the Associated Press. “We won’t hand him over to America under any circumstances. It is our stated policy.”

Earlier statements by the Taliban suggested their policy could shift if conditions were right. Mohammed Suhail Shaheen, the second in command at the Taliban’s Pakistan embassy, told the AP last week that “we want solution to the Osama issue, but the dignity of both Afghanistan and America must be taken into account.”

The U.N. has imposed harsh sanctions against the Taliban for its refusal to cooperate in bringing bin Laden to trial.

Sentencing begins

Meanwhile, jurors in a federal courtroom in New York heard testimony today in the penalty phase for one of the men convicted in the embassy bombings.

Federal prosecutors say Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali of Saudi Arabia should be put to death for his role in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Justice is not done yet,” Asst. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told jurors. “Each of you will be convinced in the end that the only just punishment that does justice for the victims is the death penalty.”

The same jury yesterday found Al-Owhali guilty of murder and conspiracy in the Kenya bombing. Khalfan Khamis Mohamed of Tanzania, also facing the death penalty, will be sentenced in a separate proceeding.

The two other men found guilty yesterday of helping to plot the bombings could be sentenced to life in prison.

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