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Jury seated for embassy bombing trial

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A jury of twelve people and six alternates was selected Thursday to hear the first trial stemming from the dual 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The panel will be sworn in Monday morning before opening statements.

The trial is expected to last nine months.

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Jury selection, presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Sand, began on January 3, with a pool of some 1,300 New Yorkers who had filled out a 96-question survey on their background, their awareness of the bombings and their views, especially on the death penalty.

The court eventually whittled the pool to 93 potential jurors, who on Thursday were brought back for one more question: Had they seen or read anything recently that could compromise their view of the case?

"Several of them had," said Anthony Ricco, defense attorney for Mohamed Sadeek Odeh.

Jury selection was closed to the press and public and no information was made available on the makeup of the panel. The names and personal information about the jurors will be kept secret throughout the trial.

Odeh, a 35-year-old Jordanian accused of participating in the Kenya bombing, is one of four men standing trial. The others are alleged Kenya bomber Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, a 24-year-old Saudi; alleged Tanzania bomber Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, a 27-year-old Tanzanian; and Wadih el Hage, a 40-year-old naturalized American from Lebanon accused of organizing the Kenyan terrorist cell, but not of direct participation in the bombings.

After requestioning the 93 prospective jurors, the attorneys ran through their challenges in about an hour, Ricco said, adding that the fast pace resulted from preparation and cooperation among the four defense teams.

"We spent many hours deciding which jurors we wanted to strike and in which round," he said.

Prosecutors allege all four men are linked to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, 43, who is charged with leading a decade-long worldwide conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy U.S. government property. He is also blamed for ordering the embassy bombings, which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 4,000 others.

All four defendants face a possible sentence of life in prison for allegedly being a part of the conspiracy.

Only al-'Owhali and Mohamed, if convicted, could be subject to the death penalty.

Bin Laden, believed to be living in Afghanistan, is one of 13 indicted fugitives in the case. None are being tried in absentia.

Four other alleged conspirators are in American or British custody.

On Monday, the government is expected to present its opening statement first, probably for one to two hours, followed by the defense attorneys in the order their clients are listed in the indictment -- El Hage, Odeh, al-'Owhali and Mohamed.

The first government witness could be called on Tuesday.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
Links to United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide
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
Terrorism Research Center
Africa News on the World Wide Web


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