AFRICANGLOBE – A Saudi man described by prosecutors as one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants was convicted in a federal court in New York on Thursday in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Khalid al-Fawwaz, 52, faces up to life in prison after a jury convicted him on four conspiracy counts on their third day of deliberations.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the verdict marked the 10th conviction at trial or via a guilty plea of a defendant tied to the bombings, which killed 224 people and injured more than 4,000.
Al-Fawwaz was not charged with planning the attacks. Instead, prosecutors said he functioned as a key bin Laden associate while living in London, disseminating the al Qaeda leader’s declarations of war to the media and sending equipment to members in Africa.
Al-Fawwaz was also accused of operating an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the early 1990s and helping lead a cell in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, that later conducted surveillance ahead of the embassy bombing there.
A defense attorney, Bobbi Sternheim, said al-Fawwaz would appeal.
“Trying a pre-9/11 case in a post-9/11 era within blocks of the World Trade Center insured Mr. al-Fawwaz would never receive a fair trial from an impartial jury,” she said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in downtown Manhattan.
Al-Fawwaz’s attorneys painted their client as a peaceful dissident who shared with bin Laden a desire to effect reform in their native Saudi Arabia, but turned away from him when he began calling for violence against U.S. civilians.
Prosecutors, however, said al-Fawwaz did whatever was asked of him to help advance al Qaeda’s mission.
The trial featured testimony from several victims of the bombings. A number of other victims watched some of the trial from the courtroom gallery.
Al-Fawwaz was arrested in London in 1998 and extradited to the United States in 2012 following a lengthy legal battle.
He was originally set to be tried alongside two co-defendants, Abu Anas al-Liby of Libya and Egyptian Adel Abdul Bary.
Al-Liby, also known as Nazih al-Ragye, died in custody last month after longstanding health problems. Bary pleaded guilty in September and was sentenced this month to 25 years in prison.