NEW YORK – Jury deliberations began Thursday in the trial of four men accused of conspiring to bomb two U.S. embassies in Africa.
The jury began studying evidence in the four-month-long trial after U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand completed his reading of 50 pages of instructions on the law in the case.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers finished six days of closing arguments Wednesday. The jurors stopped working on the case after only an hour and will resume deliberations Friday.
The trial began about 2 years after the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Prosecutors want the jury to find the defendants guilty of conspiracy for participating in a decade-long plot led by Saudi millionaire and fugitive Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden also is charged in the case and believed hiding in Afghanistan.
Two defendants -- Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, 24, and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27 -- are accused of being directly responsible for deaths in the bombings.
Prosecutors said Al-'Owhali rode a truck with a bomb in Nairobi and tossed stun grenades at guards while Mohamed helped build the bomb that went off in Dar es Salaam.
If convicted, Al-'Owhali and Mohamed will face separate proceedings before the same jury to decide whether they should be sentenced to death.
Two other defendants -- Wadih El-Hage, 40, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 36 -- are accused of playing central roles in bin Laden's alleged terrorist organization, al Qaeda.
El-Hage, bin Laden's former personal secretary, allegedly tried to arrange the purchase of weapons, including missiles, for al Qaeda while running businesses that would help fund terrorism.
Odeh was accused of being the technical adviser to the bombings, sleeping several nights before the attacks in the same hotel room as the alleged leader of bin Laden's terrorism cell in Kenya.
If convicted, El-Hage and Odeh would face life in prison.
Defense attorneys portrayed El-Hage, the only U.S. citizen of the four, as a legitimate businessman, Odeh as a devout, nonviolent Muslim and Al-'Owhali and Mohamed as pawns in a scheme about which they knew nothing.
Only Odeh admitted being a member of al Qaeda. Prosecutors depicted each of the defendants as militant followers of bin Laden, willing to carry out any orders, including a 1998 directive to kill Americans.
"You need not find that a particular defendant was a member of al Qaeda to find that the defendant was a member of the conspiracy," the judge instructed jurors.