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The BBC's Jane Standley in New York
"Lawyers for the defence praised the jury"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 03:58 GMT 04:58 UK
US embassy bomber gets life
Nairobi embassy bombing
213 people were killed in the blast
A Saudi man convicted of the 1998 bombing of the United States embassy in Kenya has been sentenced to life in prison.

Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali had faced the death penalty for his part in the bombing, but a jury in New York was unable to reach a unanimous decision that he should be executed.

Al-'Owhali had admitted to playing a part in the Nairobi bombing, which killed 213 people.

Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali
Al-'Owhali had admitted to the bombing
He was one of four alleged followers of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden convicted last month of conspiring to kill Americans in the simultaneous bombings of the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies in which a total of 224 people were killed.

The jury had deliberated over his sentencing for five days. On Monday, they sent out a note asking for instructions if they were unable to agree that he should receive the death penalty.

They were instructed that they could simply indicate that there had been no agreement and the defendant would be automatically sentenced to life.

Victims' relatives disappointed

Al-'Owhali had faced the death penalty under a federal law which allows prosecutors to seek execution in terrorist murder cases.

Deciding factors
The jurors said there were 'mitigating factors'
They were worried it would make him a martyr
They felt it would not help the victims
The jurors' statement on their decision said that they had found mitigating circumstances in Al-'Owhali's favour, and many were worried that executing him could make into a martyr for the militant Islamic group he is alleged to have worked for.

Some of the jurors also decided that executing Al-'Owhali "may not alleviate the victims' suffering".

Prosecutors appeared stunned as the jury read out the sentence and some survivors of the blast and relatives of the victims were outraged.

Sentences awaited

Howard Kavaler, a US diplomat at the Nairobi embassy who lost his wife in the blast, said: "I must confess that we are extremely disappointed that the jury accepted some or all the patently false and dishonest arguments advanced by the defence to save the life of this convicted mass murderer."

The same jury panel will now consider the fate of a second bomber, 27-year-old Tanzanian Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, convicted of the attack on the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - another 11 people died there.

But his lawyers have just filed an application for his case to be stopped, citing a ruling in a court in South Africa - where he was arrested - saying he should not have been extradited to a country where the death penalty remains in force.

The two others convicted in the bombings trial, Lebanese-American Wadih el-Hage, 40, and Jordanian Mohamed Saddiq Odeh, 35, were found guilty of conspiracy and could face life in prison.

Relaxed

Al-'Owhali confessed to investigators that he and a second man drove a truck carrying the bomb to the embassy in Nairobi.

Al-'Owhali jumped from the truck before the bomb detonated and threw stun grenades at embassy guards.

Just before the jury's decision was read out, Al-'Owhali appeared relaxed. At one point he held a copy of the Koran.

The jury had heard the accounts of 26 survivors of the Nairobi blast, who described the effects the bombing had had on their lives.

"No one who heard that testimony could ever forget it," assistant US attorney Michael Garcia reminded the jurors in his closing remarks.

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See also:

12 Jun 01 | Americas
Profile: Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali
30 May 01 | Americas
Taleban condemn bombing verdicts
29 May 01 | Americas
US embassy bombing four convicted
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