- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2001

A federal jury in New York yesterday recommended that a Tanzanian man be sentenced to life in prison in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania after being unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether he should be executed.

Sentencing for Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, 27, was set for Sept. 19, when U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand will be required under the recommendation to hand out a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

The government, citing Mohammed as a "dangerous man," had sought the death penalty.

The jury, meeting in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, deliberated over three days before telling the judge it was unable to come up with a unanimous decision. The jury decided that a sentence of death would elevate Mohammed to the status of martyr.

"We understand that the consequence of this is that Khalfan Khamis Mohammed will be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of release," the jury said in its verdict form.

The same jury had convicted Mohammed and three others May 29 of conspiring with international fugitive Osama bin Laden to kill Americans in a plot that included the simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The two blasts killed 224 persons, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 4,000.

Along with Mohammed, the jury convicted Mohammed Rashid Daoud Owhali, 24, a Saudi national; Wadih Hage, 40, a Lebanese-American who lives in Arlington, Texas; and Mohammed Sadeek Odeh, 36, of Jordan, in the Aug. 7, 1998, attacks. Mohammed and Owhali faced death-penalty hearings after being found guilty of using explosive devices to cause mass destruction in the two attacks.

Earlier this month, the same jury spared the life of Owhali, also citing their concern over his potential martyr designation.

During the trial, prosecutors said:

• Mohammed told the FBI he helped prepare the bombs in Tanzania before loading them onto a truck and watching as the truck drove away. He said he prayed the attack would be successful. Prosecutors said Mohammed rented a house in Tanzania to assemble the bombs.

• Owhali told the FBI he was on a truck that carried bombs to the Nairobi Embassy and personally threw the stun grenades to distract the guards, but fled before the explosion could make him a martyr. An embassy employee identified him as the man he saw tossing explosives at a guard before a bomb devastated the building.

David Ruhnke, one of Mohammed's attorneys, said his client was "happy" and "relieved" by the decision.

"If you're going to seek the death penalty, it can't be against the foot soldiers," Mr. Ruhnke told reporters. "The death penalty should be reserved for those who are higher up."

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, whose office prosecuted the case, said a death sentence would have been "just and appropriate," but prosecutors "respect both the process and the jury's efforts to reach a unanimous verdict."

In voting not to seek the death penalty against Mohammed, the jury said that while he did not appear remorseful for the bombing, he was not a leader of the conspiracy and his participation was relatively minor compared with others who were involved.

Seven of the jurors said his execution would make him a martyr in the eyes of the followers of bin Laden. Ten of the jurors gave the same reason in refusing to recommend the death penalty for Owhali.

Hage and Odeh were found guilty of conspiracy and could also face life in prison. Six other defendants in the attacks are in custody and awaiting trial, although no trial dates have yet been set.

Thirteen others are still at large, including bin Laden.

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