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U.S. opens death case in Tanzania bombing

K.K. Mohamed, David Ruhnke
Attorney David Ruhnke: "Surely justice can be served by putting Khalfan Mohamed in a prison where he may never walk free again." Mohamed looks on.  


By Phil Hirschkorn
CNN New York Bureau

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Prosecutors urged a New York jury to sentence a Tanzanian man to death Tuesday for the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania's capital Dar es Salaam.

Khalfan Khamis Mohamed's fate rests with the same jury that found him guilty of killing 11 people in the August 1998 attack.

"Justice for the victims of those crimes requires no less," assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said Tuesday.

Mohamed, 27, was found guilty May 29 of bombing the embassy as part of a worldwide conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy U.S. property allegedly directed by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden.

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The government plans to call numerous Tanzanians to testify about the effect the bombing had on them. Among them are the spouses of the five embassy security guards killed in the blast.

"You'll be hearing about pain, pain that this defendant caused," Garcia said. "Listen to what the victims lost that day, the day the defendant killed."

'There has been enough killing'

The jury of seven women and five men decided last week that co-defendant Mohamed al-'Owhali should be sentenced to life in prison instead of death by lethal injection. Al-'Owhali was convicted of blowing up the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in a nearly simultaneous attack that killed 213 people.

David Ruhnke, Mohamed's attorney, said a life sentence would mean Mohamed would face harsh conditions in a federal prison, including living under video surveillance with his phone calls taped and his mail opened. Mohamed sobbed quietly as Ruhnke described the prison conditions.

"Surely justice can be served by putting Khalfan Mohamed in a prison where he may never walk free again," Ruhnke said.

He argued that Mohamed has shown remorse and that his execution would make him a martyr, with his death being used to justify future terrorist attacks. And he appealed to what he called the jurors' common thread of humanity.

"There has been enough killing and enough pain," Ruhnke said.

U.S. says Mohamed still dangerous

Garcia warned that Mohamed would pose a threat to others if allowed to live. He accused Mohamed of participating in a November jailhouse stabbing that cost a correctional officer an eye and left him with brain damage.

"This defendant is a danger to anyone he would come into contact with," Garcia said.

Michael Garcia, Judge Sand
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia: "Justice for the victims of those crimes requires no less" than the death penalty. Judge Leonard Sand looks on.  

Mohamed's cellmate at the time, alleged bin Laden conspirator Mamdouh Salim, is charged with the stabbing and is to go on trial for attempted murder in September. Ruhnke said the attack was all Salim's doing, pointing out that his client did nothing to attack or injure the guard.

Mohamed's mother, Hidaya Rubea; his younger sister, Zuhura; her husband; and one of Mohamed's three brothers arrived from Africa on Tuesday and sat through the afternoon's testimony. Mohamed's mother sat at the end of one row just across a six-foot aisle from U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who heads the district where the trial is taking place.

During a break, federal marshals appeared to block Mohamed's view, leaving him unable to make eye contact with his relatives, who hope to visit him in jail.


Greta@LAW





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