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Opening statements set for Monday in U.S. embassy bombings trial

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A jury of 12 people and six alternates will hear opening statements Monday in the first trial stemming from the dual 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The panel is to be sworn in before the statements, set to begin at 10 a.m. ET.

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Government prosecutors from the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York will speak first for about an hour. They will be followed by the four defense attorneys, each expected to speak up to an hour, in the order that their clients are listed on the indictment. The defendants are:

--Wadih el Hage, 40, a naturalized American from Lebanon accused of organizing a Kenyan terrorist cell, but not of direct participation in the bombings.

--Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 35, a Jordanian accused of participating in the Kenya bombing.

--Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, 24, a Saudi also accused of participating in the Kenya bombing.

--Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, a Tanzanian accused of participating in the Tanzania bombing. The trial is expected to last nine months and possibly the rest of the year.

Jury selection ended Thursday with the seating of six men and six women, including five blacks, three Hispanics, three whites, and one man from India, according to one trial attorney.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand presided over jury selection, which began January 3 with a pool of some 1,300 New Yorkers who had filled out 96-question surveys on their backgrounds, their awareness of the bombings and their views, especially on the death penalty.

The court eventually whittled the pool to 93 potential jurors who on Thursday were brought back to be asked if they had seen or read anything recently that could compromise their view of the case. After requestioning, the attorneys ran through their challenges in about an hour and settled on a panel.

When the process ended, defense attorneys motioned to strike the panel and start again. Their complaint was that Sand asked all the questions in one-on-one closed court interviews and didn't probe deeply enough. He took suggested questions from the trial attorneys in writing, leaving defense attorneys wanting to know more, they said.

The motion to strike the jury panel -- which was not a motion for a mistrial -- leaves the defense an option for an appeal.

Prosecutors allege all four defendants are linked to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, 43, who is charged with leading a decade-long worldwide conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy U.S. government property. He is accused of ordering the embassy bombings, which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 4,000 others.

All four defendants could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty of being a part of the conspiracy. Only al-'Owhali and Mohamed could be subject to the death penalty if convicted.

Bin Laden, living in Afghanistan, is one of 13 indicted fugitives in the case. None are being tried in absentia.

Four other alleged conspirators are in American or British custody



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RELATED SITES:
Links to United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide
Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999
FBI Websites Document Evidence Against Bin Laden
Dept of State/International Information Programs:
Ussamah Bin Laden
US District Court, Southern District of New York
U.S. State Department - Counterterrorism
Terrorism Research Center
Africa News on the World Wide Web


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