A New York City jury convicted Al Qaeda’s ‘minister of communications’ – Khaled al-Fawwaz – on charges of conspiring to kill Americans and destroy U.S. property. The verdict was handed down in a federal district courtroom on Thursday, Feb. 26.
The Saudi Arabian national was the deputy to the late terror chief Osama Bin Laden for nearly a decade, spreading his message to the West.
But he pleaded not guilty and claimed he was not a member of Al Qaeda, saying he does not condone violence. The prosecution accused Fawwaz of creating a media office in London to disseminate Bin Laden’s messages and faciliate communications between Al Qaeda members.
Fawwaz was convicted Thursday in a U.S. federal court on charges of participating in a conspiracy that led to the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.
“The defendant worked for years directly and personally with Osama Bin Laden,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Lewis said during his opening argument, the Wall Street Journal reported last month. The messages he helped disseminate included declarations of war that called for Muslims to kill Americans anywhere in the world.
The evidence presented to the juror included printed copies of an Al Qaeda declaration of war – taken from a search of Fawwaz’s home in London – signed by Bin Laden, and floppy disks of drafts of the same message.
Lewin said the 52-year-old Saudi terrorist also helped lay the groundwork for attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 people dead and more wounded.
Arguing for the defense, Bobbi Sterheim argued that Fawwaz kept the incriminating evidence in his home in order to stay informed of “both sides of the aisle.”
Bin Laden’s son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, and Egyptian-born British cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri were both also convicted on similar terrorism charges in the past year as well. Both were sentenced to life in prison, with juries having deliberated for less than two days before reaching a verdict in each trial.
Wednesday’s verdict was seen as a victory for Washington’s efforts to prosecute suspected terrorists in civilian courts.