U.S. embassy bomber gets life in prison, escapes death

NEW YORK, Reuters

A federal jury on Tuesday failed to agree that a Tanzanian man should be executed for the 1998 bombing of a U.S. Embassy in Africa, guaranteeing him a sentence of life in prison without parole.

The jury said it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, should receive the death penalty. “We understand that the consequence of this is that Khalfan Khamis Mohamed will be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of release,” the jury said.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand set a Sept. 19 sentencing date, at which time he must give Mohamed a life term.

The same Manhattan jury had convicted Mohamed and three others on May 29 of conspiring with exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden to kill Americans in a broad plot that included the twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The two explosions killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 4,000.

In addition to conspiracy, Mohamed was found guilty of having a direct role in the Tanzanian blast that killed 11. This finding made him eligible for the death penalty.

The same jury previously spared the life of another defendant Mohamed Rasheed Daoud Al-‘Owhali, convicted in the Nairobi bombing. Al-‘Owhali must receive a life term when he is sentenced on Sept. 12. The two other defendants convicted in May face a possible maximum life term when they are sentenced.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said that while the government believes Mohamed deserves the death penalty, prosecutors respect both the process and the jury’s efforts to reach a unanimous verdict.

“No conviction or sentence, of course, can bring back the victims or make their families whole, but they will never be forgotten,” she said. “The world’s people must unite against international terrorism, and all who are responsible for these horrific crimes will be pursued and brought to justice.”

During the guilt phase of the trial, an FBI agent testified Mohamed admitted renting the house in which the Tanzanian bomb was built, helping grind the TNT explosive, loading the bomb on to the truck and riding part of the way to the embassy in Dar es Salaam.

While none of the jurors found that Mohamed was remorseful for the Tanzanian bombing, a majority cited certain mitigating factors that weighed against execution.

These included that Mohamed was not a leader of the conspiracy and that while he was guilty of the murders, his participation was relatively minor. Among other factors they found were that other defendants of equal or greater culpability would not be sentenced to death.

Seven of the jurors also said that killing him would make him a martyr in the eyes of bin Laden’s followers.

Bin Laden, who was indicted as the alleged mastermind of the twin blasts, remains a fugitive and is believed living in Afghanistan.