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CNN Today

Embassy Bombings Trial Under Way in New York City

Aired February 5, 2001 - 1:06 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Opening statements began this morning in a terrorism trial that could last for the rest of the year. Four men are accused of conspiring to bomb the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania two and a half years ago. Those attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is at the trial now in New York -- Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, you can see how bad the weather out here is behind me. Inside the courtroom there's very high-pitched whistling as the wind just makes its way through the courtroom. Each of the attorneys asking the jury to try to come -- to concentrate despite all of that.

Now, the prosecution began their opening statements. The assistant U.S. attorney, Paul Butler, laid out the government's case. At one point, he detailed all the events of the bombing. And he walked around to each of the defendants individually. When he got to Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, he said this man ground the TNT for the bomb used in the Dar es Salaam blast. He said that Mohamed then loaded the bomb onto the truck and was a passenger in that vehicle.

He got to at one point Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, a second defendant. He said, this man was on a suicide mission. He intended to be killed and to kill Americans. That was during the attack on the embassy in Nairobi.

Now, the prosecutor said this story is long, complicated and chilling. He said what these bombs did to human beings defied description.

Now, among the evidence will be confessions by three of the defendants, these confessions taken a short time after the bombing when all of them were brought into custody; also, the testimony of a confidential informant who has been working very closely with the government.

Now, after about an hour, the defense attorneys had their turn to go. And the defendant Wadih El-Hage, his attorney said that, yes, Wadih El-Hage worked with Osama bin Laden, but simply in a business capacity, that he was never a confidant, never part of the inner circle, but he was just doing business for bin Laden's companies. Now, a second defense attorney was pleading on behalf of Al- 'Owhali, or making his opening statement, I should say. He said, yes, 'Owhali was definitely a soldier for bin Laden, but only during the fight in Afghanistan when many Muslims rallied to the cause. He said that Mr. 'Owhali would never do anything that was against Islamic law.

Now, inside the courtroom, a number of family members. They are here to see justice done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDITH DENTLEY, RELATIVE OF VICTIM: You just take one step at a time and we look at the greater picture, which is that we're here to support the trial and to let people know that the victims had families, and to also let the world know that it's not just a big government trial, it's about the lives that were lost, and to have a presence.

ROBERT KIRK JR., RELATIVE OF VICTIM: I am here and the families are here in pursuit of justice. We're not going away. But we want to support our colleagues in the U.S. government in their efforts to try the suspected terrorists. We also want to express our concern about what happened at the embassy. I was there. It was horrible. We were let down by Madeleine Albright. We're hoping that Colin Powell and the Bush administration will support the families in our efforts for justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: The morning session is now over. The jury has been let out to go for lunch. They'll have about an hour and half and then they will return when they'll hear the afternoon session. Two more defense attorneys scheduled to give their openings then, and then we could possibly hear from a government witness as early as this afternoon -- Joie.

CHEN: All right, CNN's Deborah Feyerick at the trial for us in New York City.

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