Osama bin Laden adviser gets life in US prison in Africa embassy bombings case

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - A Saudi man whom US authorities described as a top Osama bin Laden deputy was sentenced to life in prison on Friday in connection with the deadly 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Khalid al-Fawwaz was sentenced by US District Judge Lewis Kaplan after being convicted of four conspiracy counts in New York in February.

He was not charged with helping to plan the attacks, which killed 224 people and injured more than 4,000. Instead, prosecutors said he served as a key bin Laden adviser in London, disseminating the Al-Qaeda leader’s violent messages to media outlets and sending supplies to the group’s members in Africa.

In addition, US authorities accused al-Fawwaz of running an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the 1990s and helping to establish a cell in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi that later conducted surveillance ahead of the embassy bombing there.

Several victims and relatives on Friday urged Kaplan to impose a life sentence.

“I worship the same God you say you do,” said Ellen Karas, an embassy worker left permanently blind by the Aug 7, 1998, bombing in Nairobi.

“But my God is not a vengeful and angry God. My God is full of love.”

Edith Bartley, whose father and brother died in the Nairobi blast, said the attacks had caused her “unbearable pain and sorrow.”

“Mr Al-Fawwaz, you are a travesty to the human race,” she said.

Before the sentence was imposed, al-Fawwaz turned and addressed the victims, saying words could not express his sadness at the “tragic violence that occurred.”

“I do not support violence,” he continued. “I never intended for any of my activities to contribute to it.”

His statement echoed the defence his lawyers presented at trial, portraying him as a peaceful dissident who shared with bin Laden a desire for reform in their native Saudi Arabia but turned away as bin Laden grew increasingly radicalised.

“My goal was reform, not rebellion,” al-Fawwaz said on Friday.

But Kaplan rejected that assertion as “untruthful,” saying al-Fawwaz clearly supported bin Laden’s calls for violence against Americans.

Al-Fawwaz was arrested in London in 1998 and extradited to the United States in 2012 following a legal battle.

He is the 10th defendant to be convicted at trial or via a guilty plea in connection with the bombings, according to prosecutors.