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Deborah Feyerick on embassy bombings trial
CNN Correspondent Deborah Feyerick will cover the trial of four alleged associates of exiled Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden who are charged in connection with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Jury selection is scheduled to begin January 3.
CNN: About 1,500 people are in the pool of potential jurors. How are the attorneys going to weed people out to select the jury?
Feyerick: They sent them a questionnaire with somewhere around 100 different questions. Some of them are very basic, while some of them are more probing. The problem is that we know that some of the questions are general and some of the questions are more probing but we don't know is what the actual questions are because the judge won't let us see the questionnaire until after jury selection. So, I can't tell you exactly what the questions say, but they're basically to flush out people's opinions and people's ideas and where they stand on certain issues that could be potentially prejudicial.
CNN: How long is jury selection expected to take?
Feyerick: Prosecutors believe it could take anywhere between three weeks and six weeks.
CNN: What characteristics will the prosecutors and the defense be looking for when they select the jury?
Feyerick: Their main goal is just to get a jury that is impartial and several of the defense attorneys are a little concerned that with the situation in Israel, and the graphic images of fighting there, plus the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen might bias jurors, or potential jurors, against Muslims or Arabs, which is what the defendants are.
CNN: Has the judge imposed any specific guidelines for the trial?
Feyerick: So far, nothing out of the ordinary. In certain cases, he has sealed evidence. No one is allowed to interview any of the defendants, which sometimes happens in other cases. But otherwise, the judge will make his decisions as the trial wears on.
CNN: Are the defendants allowed to attend the jury selection?
Feyerick: They are, if they so wish.
CNN: Are there special security measures in place for the trial?
Feyerick: There is very tight security, not only inside the courthouse. The U.S. Marshals, who guard the suspects, are treating this very seriously, in part because one of the defendants, who is being tried separately, allegedly attacked a corrections officer, injuring him critically and so they want to be sure nothing like that happens again. He is no longer with these four defendants, but if they had any leeway before, they don't now.
CNN: What were the four defendants' alleged roles in the embassy bombings?
Feyerick: All of them have been charged in the Osama bin Laden terrorist conspiracy targeting American citizens and military personnel. Three of the defendants are charged with directly participating in the embassy bombings. Khalfan Khamis Mohamed is accused of being a passenger in the truck carrying the bomb that blew up the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The second defendant, Mohamed Rashed Daoud al -'Owhali, is accused of being a passenger in the Nairobi, Kenya, bomb truck, and then Mohammed Sadeek Odeh allegedly helped plan the Kenya bombing. The fourth suspect, Wadih el Hage, is accused of being bin Laden's personal secretary, who helped organize the East African terrorist cell, which the other defendants were allegedly members of.
CNN: What do you expect to come out during this trial?
Feyerick: I think one of the things that makes this trial interesting is just the connection to Osama bin Laden and what has become a series of international terrorist attacks worldwide. At trial, we will see connections made between Osama bin Laden and the attacks on American troops in Somalia and a number of other incidents that have captured headlines over the last decade.
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