Chief Prosecution Witness in Bomb Trial Tells of Lies : Terrorism: Salem testifies Egyptian cleric asked him to kill Mubarak. He admits to relating false stories about his background to FBI.


Emad Ali Salem, the government’s chief witness in the domestic terrorism trial of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and his followers, testified Tuesday that Rahman asked him to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1991, but Salem also admitted to a record of lying and bragging.

Salem, a former Egyptian army major who served as the sheik’s aide and translator, is receiving over $1 million from the government as well as monthly payments under the witness protection program. He said that he lied about his background to the FBI and during an earlier criminal trial in New York.

“I told a lot of bragging stories . . . I made myself a big shot,” Salem said under prosecutors’ questioning that was designed to vent Salem’s falsehoods before defense lawyers could reveal them.


Rahman and 10 followers are charged with planning to set bombs at the United Nations, two tunnels linking New York and New Jersey and the Manhattan headquarters of the FBI. They are also accused of plotting the assassination of Mubarak during a planned visit to New York in 1993.

Salem, who secretly recorded conversations with the sheik and with other defendants, told a federal jury that during a trip to Detroit in November, 1991, the blind Egyptian cleric inquired about his background and his army career. Salem, who was serving as an FBI informant, told the cleric he was a sharpshooter.

Salem testified the sheik then suggested he turn his “rifle barrel to President Mubarak’s chest and kill him” because Egypt’s current leader is a “tyrant.”

Later, in a Detroit hotel room, Salem said Rahman inquired if he was an explosives expert. “He asked if I could blow up dynamite,” Salem said.

Salem, who testified his military background included two years as a special forces officer in the Egyptian army, said he entered the United States in 1987.

Salem said he worked in a Manhattan hotel as an engineer and as a security guard and a private detective. He said when he met his wife, he bragged falsely that he acted as security for the president of Egypt. He said he had applied to the Central Intelligence Agency for a post as a language specialist, but was turned down twice because he was not a United States citizen.


He said he began working with the FBI in May, 1991. During that time he said he lied to an FBI agent, falsely bragging that he knew Libya’s leader Moammar Kadafi and Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein as well as the military and atomic capabilities of other countries.

He said on Feb. 4, 1993, that he gave false testimony about his background while serving as a witness during a criminal court trial in New York City. Salem said the driver of a car that hit him was on trial and he lied when he told the court that he was employed by Egypt’s Secret Service and also was an army demolitions expert.

Salem said that in 1991 the FBI asked him to provide information about El Sayyid A. Nosair, a defendant in the current trial, who was charged with assassinating Rabbi Meir Kahane, the militant founder of the Jewish Defense League after a speech on Nov. 5, 1990, in a mid-Manhattan hotel.

Salem said he made friends with Nosair’s associates during the trial (Nosair was acquitted of killing Kahane but convicted on a weapons possession charge) and eventually he met Rahman. He said he was paid $500 a week plus expenses by the FBI.

After the New York World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and arrests in the alleged multi-bomb plot, Salem’s pay increased dramatically. He testified that last July 20, he signed a contract with the FBI providing for a total reward of $1,056,200 from the bureau. He also is paid $2,700 under the federal witness protection program by the U.S. Marshals Service. He has been relocated 14 times.