NEW YORK (AFP) – US prosecutors on Thursday told the New York trial of Saudi exile Khalid al-Fawwaz that he conspired with Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda across three continents for nearly a decade.
A 12-person anonymous jury was sworn at the start of the latest Al-Qaeda trial to be heard in federal courts in Manhattan, close to where the former Twin Towers stood before the 9/11 attacks.
Fawwaz is accused on four counts of conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy property in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people and wounded around 5,000.
He pleads not guilty, insisting he was an anti-corruption campaigner not a terrorist, but faces life behind bars if convicted and has already served 16 years since his arrest in London in 1998.
Of stocky build and with a long grey beard, he sat in court dressed in a neatly pressed white tunic and a silk white prayer hat and exchanged pleasantries with his lawyers.
Assistant US attorney Nicholas Lewin opened his case by striding over to Fawwaz and pointing dramatically.
He accused Fawwaz of joining Al-Qaeda soon after Bin Laden founded the terror network and of having been among its leaders for nearly a decade.
“He belonged to a conspiracy led by Osama bin Laden to attack and kill Americans, and to destroy symbols of the United States,” Lewin said.
“For nearly a decade and across three different continents the defendant worked for Al-Qaeda.”
Fawwaz led one of Al-Qaeda’s first terror camps in the mountains of Afghanistan, helped lead a terror cell in Kenya and spent years “helping craft and spread” the group’s message from London.
He allegedly helped bin Laden declare bloody war on America in 1996, and was ninth on a list of 107 names from Al-Qaeda’s small, tight-knit early days.
Lewin held up plastic bags that he said contained 17 copies of Al-Qaeda’s declaration of war and discs containing multiple drafts of the document, allegedly seized from Fawwaz’s home.