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Former Top Bin Laden Aide Gets Life in Prison for '98 U.S. Embassy Bombings

This undated file photo shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (Photo: AP)

NEW YORK (AP) -- A former top aide to Osama bin Laden was sentenced Friday to life in prison by a judge who rejected his claims that he is not a violent man despite his conviction for conspiring in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

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

"You were all in on that program," Kaplan said.

The judge told al-Fawwaz, 52, that he did not find him truthful when he spoke minutes before his sentence was announced, asking to turn toward victims of the bombings who were seated in the courtroom's spectator section.

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

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

"I had a career ahead of me. It's gone. Now I have a guide dog," she said.

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

She called herself and other survivors living proof that "Osama bin Laden didn't win. We are all here. He is gone. And thankfully it will stay that way forever."

Al-Fawwaz lawyer Bobbi Sternheim 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 Nairobi, Kenya, in 1993, and ensured bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war against the U.S. reached the world.

To carry out a global jihad against the U.S., al-Qaida relies on people like al-Fawwaz to train and oversee killers, to publicize and glorify deadly acts, to vet reporters and media, and to supply al-Qaida with technology, information and equipment, prosecutors said in court papers.

"And during his nearly decade-long role in al-Qaida, Fawwaz fulfilled each and every one of those roles for al-Qaida," they said.

At trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Buckley told jurors that al-Fawwaz was No. 9 on a list of al-Qaida members that was recovered by U.S. special forces from an al-Qaida leader's home after the Sept. 11 attacks.

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

"He has had his day in court," Buckley said. "In spite of that, Your Honor, this man stands before you unrepentant."

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 Great 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 Kaplan called an "enormously generous plea bargain" that will enable him to be freed in about eight years.

One last thing…
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