by Enver Masud
WASHINGTON, DC--Four men were convicted on May 29, in Federal District Court
in Manhattan, of conspiring with Osama bin Laden in a terrorist plot to bomb the
American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. But $1 million spent to
procure the testimony of key witnesses for the government, raises troubling
questions about the integrity of the criminal justice system.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Mohamed Rashed Daoud
al-Owhali, 24, and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27. Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, 36 faces
life in prison without parole. "Prosecutors had decided earlier not to seek the
death penalty in his case, without explaining why," according to Benjamin Weiser
of the New York Times (May 31). Wadih El- Hage, 40, also faces life without parole,
"although the government acknowledged that he had no role in the bombings," Mr.
The principal witnesses for the prosecution were two former members
of al Qaeda, a loosely knit organization headed by Osama bin Laden. Defense
lawyers question the credibility of these two former bin Laden aides.
Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl, a Sudanese man, said he had complained about his $500
monthly salary. L'Houssaine Kherchtou, a Moroccan, was upset with Osama bin Laden
after he was refused $500 to cover the cost of an emergency operation for his
Defense lawyers suggest that both men were "motivated by greed in their
decision to cooperate with the government, which had spent more than $1 million
to provide them with new identities and lives through the witness protection
program, testimony showed," Mr. Weiser reports.
There is evidence that lends credence to the concerns of the defense lawyers.
According to the PBS series Frontline: Secret
Threat to Justice: "A nine-month investigation by the National Law Journal
has found that abuses by informants and law enforcement threaten the rights and
the safety of innocent people, as well as the integrity of the courts."
"Throughout the country, law enforcement's reliance on informants has grown
to almost Orwellian proportions, as snitches exert growing control over agents
and judges fail to impose any checks or balances....The informants know
the bigger [the] story they tell, the more the government is going to
Secret Threat to Justice, based on an article by Michael Curriden, "The
Informant Trap," National Law Journal, March 20, 1995, states: "Today's criminal
justice system is addicted to informants. Some have made headlines lately, such
as Michael Fitzpatrick, the longtime informant at the heart of the alleged plot
by Malcolm X's daughter to assassinate Louis Farrakhan, and Emad Salem, the main witness in the terrorist
conspiracy trial in New York, who prosecutors say was paid more than $1 million
for his help."
According to Mr. Weiser, prosecutors did not offer evidence directly showing
that Osama bin Laden ordered the embassy attacks.
"Today's guilty verdicts are a triumph for world justice and for world unity
in combating international
terrorism," said Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia have criticised the verdict as "unfair,"
Unlike the many opportunities provided convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy
McVeigh, and his attorney, to state their case before an international audience,
we don't anticipate CNN and others giving the same opportunity to the four
convicted for the bombing of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.