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The BBC's Samantha Simmonds
"If convicted, two of the defendants face the death penalty"
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The BBC's Rob Watson in New York
"Extraordinary measures have been put in place for the trial."
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Tuesday, 6 February, 2001, 01:27 GMT
Embassy bombing trial 'unfair'
Kenya bomb
The bomb in Nairobi killed 213 people
Defence lawyers in the trial of four men accused of bombing the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania have said that their clients are being prosecuted unfairly.

They claimed the men were on trial simply because of their association with Islamic militant Osama bin Laden.

All four defendants entered into an illegal agreement to work with Osama bin Laden and others to kill Americans anywhere in the world they can be found

Prosecutor Paul Butler
The twin blasts in 1998 killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and wounded thousands of others, as well as sparking retaliatory US missile strikes on targets in Afghanistan and Sudan.

Prosecutors accuse the four of conspiring with Mr bin Laden, who they say ordered the bombings as part of a global conspiracy targeting Americans.

All four defendants, two of whom face the death penalty if convicted, have entered not guilty pleas.

Illegal agreement

"The story about to unfold before you is long, complicated and chilling," prosecutor Paul Butler said in his opening statement.

The evidence will not show all the pieces of the puzzle

Defence lawyer
He told the jury: "All four defendants entered into an illegal agreement to work with Osama bin Laden and others to kill Americans anywhere in the world they can be found."

But defence lawyers said that evidence was scant.

"The evidence will not show all the pieces of the puzzle," Sam Schmidt, the lawyer for defendant Wadih El-Hage, said.

He added there was nothing to suggest that his client participated in the embassy bombings.

He acknowledged that Mr Hage had worked as a personal secretary to Mr bin Laden, but said that he was not part of the wealthy exile's inner circle.

"He was a businessman. He was only related to bin Laden as a businessman," Mr Schmidt said.

Defence lawyer Jeremy Schneider said that his client, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, had no knowledge of the plot despite mixing explosives for the Tanzanian blast.

The accused

More than 100 witnesses from six countries are scheduled to testify in the trial.

Twelve jurors were chosen last Thursday. Six others are on standby in case any drop out.

The four accused are:

  • Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, a Tanzanian, accused of conspiracy and murder in the Dar es Salaam bombing. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

  • Mohamed Rashid Daoud al Owhali, 23, a Saudi, charged with conspiracy and murder in the embassy bombings. Accused of throwing a grenade at US embassy guards in Nairobi. He too faces the death penalty if convicted.

  • Wadih el Hage, 40, a Lebanon-born US citizen, accused of conspiracy, but not direct involvement, in the bombings. Faces life in prison if convicted.

  • Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 35, of Jordan, accused of helping plan the bombing in Kenya. He too faces life in prison if convicted.

A fifth defendant, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, will be tried separately after he attacked a prison guard last November during one of the court hearings.

Osama bin Laden
Bin Laden: Still on America's most wanted list
Three other suspects are awaiting extradition proceedings in Britain. Another defendant, former US army sergeant Ali Mohamed, 48, has already pleaded guilty, and prosecutors are using his testimony in the case.

Prosecutors have charged a total of 22 men in connection with the bombings.

Mr bin Laden, the alleged mastermind, is one of 13 still at large.

'Kill Americans'

He is believed to be living in Afghanistan under the protection of the ruling Taleban Islamist militia.

The indictment names him as the leader of an "international terrorist group" called Al Qaeda (the Base), which it says is "dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence".

Prosecutors say he endorsed a fatwah, or religious decree, telling Muslims to kill Americans - including civilians - anywhere in the world.

The trial, which is taking place in the heavily-guarded Manhattan federal court, is expected to last many months.

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See also:

20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Who is Osama bin Laden?
06 Feb 01 | South Asia
Taleban deny Bin Laden re-think
03 Nov 00 | South Asia
US Bin Laden demand rejected
17 May 00 | Americas
Clinton accuses bin Laden
09 Oct 98 | Americas
Three deny embassy bomb murders
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