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Judge rules government may restrict access to evidence in case tied to bin Laden

CNN's Kathleen Koch reports on the anniversary of the embassy bombings in Africa (Aug. 7, 1999)

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A federal judge ruled Monday that the government has the right to restrict access to evidence in the contempt and perjury trial of Ihab Mohamed Ali, an Egyptian-born man charged with lying to the grand jury investigating the alleged worldwide terror network of Osama bin Laden.

Prosecutors had sought a protective order on all documents submitted to the defense attorneys representing Ali, who last worked as a taxi driver in Orlando, Florida. Prosecutors claim that Ali served as an intermediary between bin Laden and some of his followers in the time leading up to the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Bianco argued that the protective order was needed to prevent release of information to the media or anyone other than the defendant and his attorneys, saying that a release could harm the government's ongoing investigation into the bin Laden network. Bianco said the information included the results of house searches in the U.S. and abroad as well as banking and telephone records connected to the defendant. A protective order has been in place in the embassy bombing case from the beginning.

Ali's attorney, Geoffrey Stewart, argued that the protective order has a chilling effect on the defense counsel or on anyone down the road who may want to participate in the trial.

Judge Lewis Kaplan agreed with the defense's argument that tying Ali's case to the embassy bombing case was not a basis for issuing the protective order, but he said the government has shown enough cause to restrict access for other reasons. Ali has not been charged in the bombing.

Seventeen people were originally charged with murder and conspiracy in the embassy bombing case. One defendant, Ali Mohamed, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on October 20 and in his statement to the court, he testified that Ihab Ali was one of the bin Laden followers he trained in surveillance techniques.

Ali's trial is scheduled for February 6, 2001.

Former Army sergeant pleads guilty to embassy bombing-related charges
October 20, 2000
U.S. to seek death penalty in '98 embassy bombings
May 10, 2000
U.S. State Department background on bin Laden's organization
October 8, 1999
Anniversary of embassy bombings marked in Africa, America
August 7, 1999
Official: Bin Laden group major threat to U.S. embassies
February 25, 1999
White House defends $3 billion for embassy security upgrades
February 19, 1999
U.S. officials: Clear and present danger of new bin Laden attack
February 4, 1999
Five men added to Tanzania embassy bombing indictment
December 16, 1998

Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999
FBI Websites Document Evidence Against Bin Laden
Dept of State/International Information Programs:
Ussamah Bin Laden
US District Court, Southern District of New York
U.S. State Department - Counterterrorism
The U.S. Embassy Dar Es Salaam Tanzania
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives - Osama Bin Laden
Terrorism Research Center
Africa News on the World Wide Web
The 1998 US Embassy Bombings in Kenya and Tanzania

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