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Verdict Reached in U.S. Embassy Bombing Trials

Aired May 29, 2001 - 12:23   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news once again here at CNN. We're getting word that there is a verdict in the embassy bombings trial, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

With more this, let's go to our Bob Franken in New York -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the twelfth day of deliberations for the jurors, and they have just told the judge that they have a verdict; a verdict on 576 different counts, a the 302- count indictment charging four who are defendants in this case with participating in conspiracies and carrying out the bombings on August 7, 1998 which result in Kenya -- in Nairobi, Kenya -- in the death of 213, including 12 Americans, with thousands wounded and almost simultaneously in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which resulted in 11 more deaths. Altogether 224 death, four defendants.

The indictment itself actually names 22, including Osama bin Laden, who is described as the person who's been the ringleader of this conspiracy to carry out of those bombings. This is a trail that has lasted 4 1/2 months, after an event that took place on August 7, 1998. It's a trial that has been covered almost in its entirety by CNN's Deborah Feyerick.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a federal courtroom in lower Manhattan, a continent away from the U.S. Embassy bombings, four men have been standing trial, charged with plotting to attack Americans and American facilities.

Prosecutors say Mohammed Al-'Owhali, Khalfan Mohamed, Mohamed Odeh, and Wadih El-Hage were part of an international terrorist conspiracy led by millionaire Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. That conspiracy, prosecutors say, led to the bombing of U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Two hundred and twenty- four people, including a dozen Americans, were killed in the coordinated explosions nearly three years ago.

During the trial, which began in January, prosecutors called over 90 witnesses and presented hundreds of pieces of evidence, including clothing laced with bomb residue. The jury also saw pieces of the mangled trucks used to carry the bombs, and box loads of documents, with plane tickets and passports, which prosecutors say link the four men to the conspiracy. Perhaps most powerful in the prosecution's arsenal: incriminating statements made to FBI agents by the three men charged in the bombing: Khalfan Mohamed saying he helped grind TNT used in Tanzania; Mohammed Al-'Owhali saying he threw stun grenades at the embassy guards in Kenya, and Mohamed Odeh saying the truck would have caused more damage to the Kenya Embassy if it had been turned backwards.

After defense attorneys failed to get the statements tossed out by the judge, they tried to persuade the jury to ignore them, calling them coerced, unreliable, biased.

FREDERICK COHN, AL-'OWHALI'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If they discard the statement, there is no evidence of anything.

FEYERICK: Only Wadih El-Hage is not charged in the bombings, but in the larger conspiracy. Prosecutors say he ran companies that helped bin Laden finance his alleged terrorist enterprise. His lawyer has repeatedly argued El-Hage was an honest businessman with a poor choice in acquaintances.

SAM SCHMIDT, EL-HAGE'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Association does not mean joining a conspiracy. If it did, many people in the United States would have a great deal of problems.

FEYERICK: In reaching its decision, the jury had to make its way through more than 300 counts for the alleged anti-American conspiracy, for the bombings, and for each victim killed in the blasts.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


FRANKEN: And in fact, as Deborah Feyerick said, there were 302 counts in the document. Actually, there were a total of 576 charges. The jury had to go through each and every one of them because combinations of defendants were charged with various of the offenses that were alleged in the indictment.

Now, let's go in some detail defendants. The first one is Mohamed Al-'Owhali. He is somebody who is charged with actually participating in the bombing in Nairobi, Kenya on August 7, 1998. He is charged with having actually thrown a stun grenade at one of the security people at the embassy, which preceded the actual bombing which left 213 dead, 12 of them Americans, and also thousands injured.

Now, the FBI was able to accumulate some evidence, as the investigation fanned out worldwide; the FBI and other international law organizations. Some of the evidence included his fingerprints, which were found in the truck, and the police line-up photo. He was identified by one of the people who was at the embassy that day. There were the bullets that were found in hospital.

He was injured in the actual explosion, and they were found by hospital personnel thereafter, and keys to the bomb truck itself. And of course, the Kenya Embassy in Nairobi was vulnerable, so vulnerable because it was right downtown, and so that became something that the photographs of that embassy became part of the evident.

Now, Mohamed Odeh is charged with conspiracy on the bombing. He is not charged with actually taking part. He is charged with actually helping to construct the bomb in the Hilltop Motel in Nairobi, Kenya. He is charged with conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiracy to destroy U.S. buildings and property, the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, and the murders of 213 people in Nairobi, Kenya.

He, since he was not a direct participant in the actual act, is not facing the death penalty. The first person we discussed, Mohammed Al-'Owhali, and we'll get to verdicts later on on the ones that result in the death penalty.

In any case, some of the evidence that Mohamed Odeh had to face was evidence of his travel bag with clothing that was found as he was arrested in Pakistan, just about the time that the bombing occurred. It showed that there were some residue of TNT evidence, said prosecutors, that he, in fact, had help construct the bomb, and fingerprints from this Hilltop Hotel which placed there.

The defense said that yes, he was there, but he did not participate in any sort of effort to actually have the bombing. And of course, the sketch of the embassy was also included in the evidence. An FBI agent, John Anticev, said that Odeh said it was a blunder that this occurred, but he denied any sort of planning or training for this. He, of course, is denying that he participated in any sort of conspiracy.

The next defendant is Khalfan Khamis Mohamed. He is called by just about everybody K.K. Mohammed. He, too, faces the death penalty. He faces it because he has been charged with -- the allegation is that he directly participated in the bombing in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. It's charged that he actually accompanied the driver of the truck in that bombing part of the way there.

Also, he used a flour mill that was used to grind the TNT in the -- and also to rent a house where the bomb was actually made, and also to purchase the Jeep that was used to deliver the bomb. Those are the charges that are against him.

By the way, I point out again, we are awaiting the verdicts. The jury, which has deliberated 12 days, has said that it has reached its verdicts. I point out again, there are 576 different charges, 302- count indictment. It will take a long period of time to actually go through the indictment charge after charge after charge. We will, of course, be looking at the beginning, at the conspiracy charges, to, in fact, find out if all four defendants who were charged in that one have been found guilty.

If, in fact, they have been, we will be able to report that they were found guilty of their participation in these bombings, the nearly simultaneous bombings on August 7, 1998.

Now, the last defendant. He is really quite a different defendant, and that Wadih El-Hage. He is an American citizen, a naturalized American citizen, Lebanese by birth. He has been charged with being the personal secretary of Osama bin Laden, who, as you probably know, is the person who leads this organization that is alleged, is dedicated to the overthrow and the death of Americans, and that is part of this indictment, too.

We'll get to that in a moment, but anyway, El-Hage is charged with participating in the conspiracy itself. He is also charged with perjury for lying to the New York grand jury that considered this case, lying about his association with Osama bin Laden.

Now, the evidence included stuff that was taken from his house when he lived in Nairobi, Kenya. It included documents that were seized in his laptop computer, his address books, and also some evidence concerning a plane that Osama bin Laden tried to rent. All of this was material that was taken from his home in Nairobi, a.

Since then, he has moved to a suburb of Dallas, Texas -- Arlington, Texas -- where he lives, as I said, as a naturalized American, but now he is charged with participating in the conspiracy. His charges do not include the possibility of the death penalty.

The main defendant, however, the main person who was charged in the indictment who is not a defendant is Osama bin Laden himself. He heads this organization that, as I say, has spent the last several years, in fact, fighting the United States of America. He has been living in Afghanistan.

He is considered the leader of this conspiracy according to the prosecutors. He is one of the people named in the indictment, but he is not somebody who is actually facing trial here. Only four defendants, and right now, we are awaiting the jury that will start reading its many, many, many verdicts, and we'll find out what their fate will be.

KAGAN: Bob Franken, thank you so much. Once again, for people who are just joining us, viewers who are just joining us, the verdicts are in the in the embassy bombing trial. We'll be hearing those in just a bit, or hearing what those might be.

Bob, do we know exactly when the verdicts will -- when they'll start reading them?

FRANKEN: Well, it could be, I would guess, within the next half hour. That could only be a guess. The judge had not really called the jury in yet. This has been a very laborious process. Time after time, as recently as just a few minutes ago, the jury had sent out notes asking for specific evidence.

Obviously, the members of the jury took their work quite seriously. The members, by the way, include seven women and five men, a very diverse group. So, we just have to wait until the jurors come in and they start reading the litany of the charges and the disposition of each defendant on each charge.

KAGAN: Bob Franken in New York City, you stay with us. Once again, the verdicts in in the embassy bombing trial in New York City; four international defendants waiting to hear their fate. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT


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