A one-time al Qaeda chieftain and aide of Osama bin Laden was found guilty Thursday of conspiring to kill Americans in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa.
Khaled al-Fawwaz was convicted on four counts of conspiracy by an anonymous Manhattan federal court jury for his role in the attacks that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans.
He led an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the early 1990s and later served as bin Laden’s spokesman in London.
Wearing a white cloak and skullcap, al-Fawwaz was expressionless as the forewoman announced the verdict.
Before being led out of the courtroom, he smiled at his lawyer.
Judge Lewis Kaplan praised the jury following the verdict.
“All persons of this country owe you a debt of gratitude,” he said, calling the case “hard fought” and adding, “There is no doubt the defendant has received a fair trial.”
In a statement following the verdict, US Attorney Preet Bharara said, “As a unanimous jury has found, for nearly a decade, Khaled al-Fawwaz played a critical role for al Qaeda in its murderous conspiracy against America.”
Al-Fawwaz’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said outside the courtroom that she was “disappointed.”
“Trying a pre-9/11 terrorism case in a post-9/11 era within blocks from the World Trade Center ensured that Mr. al-Fawwaz could never receive a truly fair trial by a truly impartial jury.”
Al-Fawwaz “operated at the very heart of this conspiracy,” Assistant US Attorney Sean Buckley said in his closing argument.
The trial also showcased al Qaeda in its infancy, when its members numbered in the hundreds and it plotted terrorist attacks that eventually drew the attention of criminal investigators a world away.
Witnesses included an American former al Qaeda member who said bin Laden asked him in 1995 to kill Egypt’s president by ramming the president’s plane with bin Laden’s in midair. The New York Police Department’s counterterrorism and intelligence chief, John Miller, testified about meeting al-Fawwaz in London in 1998, when Miller was a TV news correspondent.
An al Qaeda roster of original members lists bin Laden first and al-Fawwaz ninth, and 18 copies of bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of war — signed by bin Laden — were found in al-Fawwaz’s London apartment, prosecutors said. US special forces found the roster in an al Qaeda leader’s home after the Sept. 11 attacks, the government said.
Al-Fawwaz made sure bin Laden’s declaration of war reached the world by communicating with the media and helping translate bin Laden’s words for multiple audiences, prosecutors said.
“Murderous words lead to murderous action,” Assistant US Attorney Nicholas Lewin told jurors.
Al-Fawwaz did not testify. Arrested in London in 1998, he was extradited from Great Britain in 2012.
New York juries have convicted five other people in the embassy attacks. Al-Fawwaz had been scheduled to stand trial with a co-defendant, Abu Anas al-Libi, but he died last month after a long illness.
He’ll get to preach jihad at U.S. taxpayer expense to a new generation of Muslim terrorists who will be set free on American streets.
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