Embassy bombings jury wraps fourth day of deliberations
By Phil Hirschkorn
NEW YORK -- A federal jury completed its fourth day of deliberations Tuesday in the trial of four men charged with a terrorist conspiracy to kill Americans that allegedly included the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
In its single note to the court, sent around 4 p.m. EDT, the jurors asked to review half a dozen more trial exhibits -- government evidence that again focuses on defendant Wadih el Hage, in particular, and his ties to an admitted terrorist conspirator.
El Hage, 40, an American, is charged with conspiracy for allegedly facilitating the East African terrorist cell and with perjury for allegedly lying about his contacts with Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile who is accused of being the mastermind behind the embassy bombings and of leading the conspiracy through his Islamic militant group, al Qaeda.
Three other defendants are charged with direct roles in the twin truck bombings in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 4,500 people on August 7, 1998:
Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, 24, a Saudi, charged with executing the Kenya bombing.
Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 36, a Jordanian, charged with planning the Kenya bombing.
Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, a Tanzanian, charged with executing the Tanzania bombing.
All three face multiple murder counts for the fatalities. Al-Owhali and K.K. Mohamed could face the death penalty.
One document the jury requested Tuesday is a report detailing the death of al Qaeda's former military commander, Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, who drowned in a May 1996 ferry accident on Africa's Lake Victoria, which lies between Kenya and Tanzania. Prosecutors assert that el Hage was the author of the report, written in Arabic.
El Hage denied knowing or recognizing al-Banshiri under questioning before a federal grand jury, which prosecutors say was a lie. A brother-in-law of al-Banshiri, Ashif Juma, testified during the trial that el Hage did come to look for al-Banshiri after the accident.
The report was found in the computer of Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian-born, former U.S. Army sergeant who has pled guilty to participating in bin Laden's alleged conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy U.S. government property -- the same terrorism conspiracy charges the four men on trial face. Mohamed has admitted administering weapons and explosives training in al Qaeda camps and conducting surveillance of the American embassy in Kenya as early as 1993.
FBI agents searched Mohamed's Santa Clara, California, home two weeks after the embassy bombings. Agent Michael Ernst testified that a Nairobi fax number for el Hage was found in Mohamed's address book On the "W" page, above the number, is an Arabic symbol which translates as "Wadieh," Ernst said. El Hage's own address book, seized in a 1997 search of his Nairobi home, included a contact number for Mohamed.
El Hage denied recognizing Mohamed under questioning before the grand jury or maintaining contacts with anyone in the U.S. who worked for al Qaeda, which prosecutors consider lies. El Hage faces 18 perjury counts in the trial's 302-count indictment and verdict form.
Earlier Tuesday, Judge Leonard Sand granted a government motion to quash a subpoena for former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to testify in the trial's potential death penalty phase.
The U.S. Attorney's office argued in a 30-page brief that Albright's testimony would be irrelevant, and Sand agreed.
Attorneys for al-'Owhali had sought Albright's appearance to probe U.S. foreign policy and military actions and ultimately to argue to the jury that the U.S. government had reckless disregard for human life. They said this was evident in its failure to warn Kenyans about threats against the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, in the deaths of Iraqis caused by economic sanctions against the country and the airstrikes since the Gulf War ceasefire in 1991.
"It is far from clear that such testimony should be received at all and it is also far from clear that Secretary Albright is the appropriate witness," said Assistant United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in a previous letter opposing the subpoena. "The requests are irrelevant to al-'Owhali's state of mind."
Al-'Owhali's attorneys are still seeking information from the Pentagon on the Iraqi airstrikes in a subpoena sent to Gen. Tommy Franks of the U.S. Central Command at Macdill Air Force Base in Florida.
Pentagon legal counsel indicated to the court in a May 10 letter that it is attempting to provide a list of airstrike dates and munitions used. Franks himself is not being asked to appear.
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