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Jury Finds Four Followers of Osama bin Laden Guilty in Embassy Bombings

Aired May 29, 2001 - 15:31   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Following up on the embassy bombings case now here at CNN, we are watching live pictures coming to us from New York. We're getting reaction this hour from the U.S. attorney Mary Jo White and others in her office as well, as from the FBI, with regard to the verdict today in the embassy bombings case. Obviously guilty on all counts, as you see there.

Let's listen to Mary Jo White now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MARY JO WHITE, U.S. ATTORNEY: ... Kelly (ph), who was the special agent in charge, U.S. Department of State, Office of Diplomatic Security; Russell Qualatone (ph), U.S. Marshal, Southern District of New York; Captain Mark Smith (ph) of the New York State Police; Deputy Chief Jean Corcoran (ph), Metropolitan Transportation Authority PD. We also have Paul Butler (ph) and Ken Caress (ph) of our prosecution team; Patrick Carroll (ph) and Mike Garcia (ph) of that team are over in court, as we speak, dealing with some issues with respect to the penalty proceedings that will actually begin tomorrow.

And I need to give a caveat at the outset: We'll be making very brief statements on today's verdicts, but because of the tendency of the penalty proceedings, we aren't in a position to answer questions about the case itself.

Defendants Wadih al-Hage, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, Mohamed al- 'Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed were convicted today for their participation in a worldwide conspiracy to kill Americans and for bombing the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 7, 1998, in which 224 totally innocent African and American citizens lost their lives. The jury today returned guilty verdicts on all 302 counts in the indictment. We're obviously very gratified by the jury's work and their verdicts.

The jury convicted Odeh and al-'Owhali for the murder of all 213 victims of the bombing of the Embassy in Nairobi.

Khalfan Khamis Mohamed was convicted of murdering all 11 people who lost their lives in the Dar es Salaam bombing.

Wadih al-Hage, who was not charged in the bombings themselves, was convicted of conspiracy and for committing perjury before the grand jury, sitting in the federal courthouse investigating the conspiracy and the bombings.

Both Odeh and al-Hage face life sentences without the possibly of parole. Both al-'Owhali and Mohamed face the possibility of the death penalty. And as I mentioned, those proceedings begin before the jury tomorrow.

Today's guilty verdicts are a triumph for world justice and for world unity in combating international terrorism. They are also a tribute to the brave men and women and their families who work abroad for the State Department, the United States military and in our embassies around the world. They are also a tribute to the extraordinary investigative work of the FBI, the entire FBI and New York City Police Department Joint Terrorist Task Force, the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the U.S. marshals and all of their partners, both in the United States, in New York and the outstanding law enforcement authorities in Kenya, Tanzania, London and around the world.

But what these prosecutions are primarily about is the victims of these terrorist bombings and their families. Guilty verdicts cannot bring back lost loved ones or ever erase the pain and void of their lost, but we hope that they provide at least a degree of comfort as a significant step toward achieving some sense of justice and vindication.

The bombing of our embassies on August 7, 1998 will never be forgotten.

But our job is not finished. We remain permanently and unrelentingly committed to tracking down, apprehending and bringing to justice every single participant in these crimes, however long it takes and wherever around the globe it is necessary to go to find the evidence and those responsible, to bring them to justice.

Thank you.

Barry?

BARRY MAWN, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: On behalf of the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, I would like to express my appreciation to the men and women of the jury who gave five months of their lives to ensure that justice was done in this case. They endured many hours of testimony and argument, they considered all the evidence presented, they deliberated in a forthright manner and business-like manner. We thank them for their service.

This verdict represents the first-ever conviction in an American court of individuals who caused the deaths of United States citizens abroad by means of a terrorist bombing. This jury returned a verdict which puts on notice any individual or group of individuals who seek to attack the United States persons or interests abroad, that the rule of law is more powerful than any terrorist bomb, and that those responsible for such crimes will be identified, located, apprehended and convicted. This investigation has been massive. With the crime scene located 9,000 miles from the shores of the United States, with investigators from 38 of the FBI's 56 field offices sent to East Africa to conduct thousands of interviews, it represents the largest FBI deployment abroad.

The challenges of conducting such complicated investigations, both logistically and otherwise, were overcome by the talent, hard work, perseverance and personal sacrifice of the FBI agents and all the members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which the United States attorney mentioned.

Much remains to be done, however. Of the 22 defendants in this matter, 13 individuals, including Osama bin Laden, remain at large. Just as in the investigations of the bombing of the World Trade, the conspiracy to blow up 11 U.S. jumbo jets simultaneously as they flew across the Pacific Ocean, and the terrorist plot to destroy the United Nations Building, the FBI Building, and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force have a proven track record of solving the most complicated international terrorist conspiracies, identifying those who have committed such crimes, and bringing them to justice in the United States. Working closely with the law enforcement and intelligence communities around the world, these 13 will also be brought to trial.

We must remember that in addition to the 12 Americans killed in these bombings, more than 200 Kenyan and Tanzanian citizens were also killed. Their loss is horrific to contemplate. The law enforcement authorities in Kenya and Tanzania have provided critical assistance throughout this investigation and they remain our partners in this effort.

My congratulations to the United States Attorney's office, headed by Mary Jo White, and the entire prosecutive team of AUSA's Pat Fitzgerald (ph), Ken Careras (ph), Mike Garcia (ph) and Paul Butler (ph) who were with us every step of the way from the beginning.

I would also like to express my congratulations and appreciation for a job well done by FBI and terrorist case Agents Debbie Dorn (ph), Scott Merriman (ph), Megan Muehler (ph), Amy Perkins (ph), Mike Foursey (ph), Pat Damurro (ph) and John O'Neil (ph) to mention just a few.

Let me conclude with this investigation, I believe, represents and typifies the effort that has gone on day-in and day-out by the FBI and its partners in the thousands of cases we are involved with.

I can assure the American public, the FBI is dedicated and committed to the rule of law, and each agent performs their assignment to the very best of their ability.

Thank you.

CHEN: All right. You have been listening to comments from Mary Jo White, of course, the U.S. attorney assigned in the New York region, as well as Barry Mawn, the FBI assistant director: both principal players in the prosecution team in the U.S. embassy bombing case back in 1998. Earlier in the day, we heard the verdict in the case, convictions on all counts against all four defendants involved in the case.

Again, noting that these were rather crisp, rather scripted comments from these lead figures on the prosecution team, noting from their point of view that two -- the sentencing phase will begin tomorrow, and two of those convicted, 'Owhali and Mohamed, both face the death penalty in the case. The two other principal defendants face life without parole in this case. And so, therefore, these two figures from the prosecution team said they would be making very limited comments, which they did indeed.

Barry Mawn, however, did make -- make a brief acknowledgement that some of the key figures involved in terror conspiracies against the United States (UNINTELLIGIBLE) those alleged to be involved in conspiracies against the United States and its citizens, those people remain at-large, including Osama bin Laden.

Again, both of those figures from the prosecution team speaking about the jury's verdict today in the case of the U.S. embassy bombings: convictions on all counts against all four defendants in the case. CNN continuing to follow up on that.

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