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Ex-Bin Laden aide given life term

Published 15/05/2015

Ellen Karas was blinded in the 1998 bombing attacks on two US embassies (AP)
Ellen Karas was blinded in the 1998 bombing attacks on two US embassies (AP)

A former top aide to Osama bin Laden has been sentenced to life in prison for conspiring in the deadly 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa, with the judge rejecting his claims that he is not a violent man.

District Judge Lewis Kaplan said Khaled al-Fawwaz was an eager supporter of bin Laden's goals even before the attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans.

Al-Fawwaz, 52, turned towards victims of the bombings and spoke minutes before his sentence was announced.

"I can't find words to describe how terribly sad and sorry I am," al-Fawwaz said. "I don't support violence. ... I hope one day people will find other ways to live with their differences other than violence."

Mr Kaplan announced al-Fawwaz's sentence after three victims spoke, including Ellen Karas, who was left blind by the attacks.

"I worship the same God as you," she told the defendant. "But he is not an angry God. He is not a vengeful God."

Al-Fawwaz's lawyer Bobbi Sternheim had asked that he be sentenced to less than life in prison, saying he was less culpable than others.

In court papers, prosecutors said they proved at trial that al-Fawwaz was an al Qaida leader who directed a military training camp in Afghanistan in 1991, led a terror cell in Kenya in 1993 and ensured bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war against the US reached the world.

At trial, Assistant US Attorney Sean Buckley told jurors that al-Fawwaz was number nine on a list of al Qaida members that was recovered by US special forces from an al Qaida leader's home after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Mr Buckley said at sentencing that al-Fawwaz was the last of the men who had been arrested in the case to face trial.

The Saudi Arabia-born al-Fawwaz was arrested in London weeks after the August 1998 attacks at the request of the United States but was not extradited from Britain until 2012.

He had been scheduled to stand trial with Abu Anas al-Libi, who was snatched off the streets of Libya in 2013, but al-Libi died in January after a long illness.

Another co-defendant, Egyptian lawyer Adel Abdul Bary, was sentenced in February to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in what Mr Kaplan called an "enormously generous plea bargain" that will enable him to be freed in about eight years.

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