NEW YORK – After hearing three months of testimony about a terrorist war against Americans, a jury must now decide if four men conspired to bomb two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Six days of closing arguments in the trial concluded Wednesday with prosecutors invoking the name of a woman killed in one of the 1998 blasts, urging jurors to "give her justice" by convicting the four alleged terrorists.
Defense attorneys argued their clients were victims of guilt by association with exiled Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden.
An indictment charges the defendants with joining a terrorist plot by bin Laden to drive U.S. forces out of the Middle East by killing Americans everywhere. The alleged conspiracy included the nearly simultaneous Aug. 7, 1998, attacks on embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which left 224 people dead, including 12 Americans.
U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand was to finish instructing jurors about federal conspiracy laws Thursday. Deliberations were expected to begin later in the day or Friday.
"In the context of conspiracy cases, actions often speak louder than words," Sand told the jury Wednesday in federal court.
Wadih El-Hage, 40, accused of heading a terrorist cell in Kenya, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 36, the reputed "technical adviser" to the bombings, could face life in prison if convicted of conspiracy.
Facing possible death sentences are Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, an alleged bomb maker in Tanzania, and Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, 24, charged with riding in a bomb-hauling truck and tossing stun grenades in the Kenya attack.
Defense attorneys portrayed El-Hage — the only U.S. citizen of the four — was portrayed as a legitimate businessman, Odeh as a devout but nonviolent Muslim, and Al-'Owhali and Mohamed as pawns in a scheme they knew nothing about.
Only Odeh allegedly admitted being an official member of al-Qaeda, bin Laden's terrorist organization. But prosecutors depicted each one as militant followers of bin Laden, willing to carry out his every order.
"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," Sand instructed jurors.