Lawyers for a terrorist convicted in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed 213 people made American policy toward Iraq the centerpiece of their defense Monday to try to save him from a death sentence.
Former Atty. Gen. Ramsey Clark testified that devastation caused by the Gulf War, followed by a decade of U.S.-supported United Nations sanctions, have caused "a catastrophe of enormous magnitude."
Clark, who was attorney general under President Johnson, said he visited Iraq several times and witnessed "extensive destruction of civilian facilities, civilian life."
"Every time you see children, you wonder how they're still alive," Clark said.
Appearing on behalf of Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, a 24-year-old follower of Islamic militant Osama bin Laden, Clark portrayed Iraq as a devastated nation--a fact al-'Owhali's lawyers argue inflames the anger of many young people in the Mideast who view the United States as an enemy of Islam.
At the minimum, al-'Owhali faces life in prison without parole as one of four men convicted in the plot to bomb the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 224 people and injured more than 4,500, many critically.
The jury of seven women and five men found that al-'Owhali participated directly in the Nairobi bombing in August 1998, visiting the scene two days before the attack and later riding in the truck carrying the massive explosive. Trying to guide the vehicle closer to its target, he hurled stun grenades at guards before running away.
In an effort to mitigate their client's actions, al-'Owhali's lawyers cited documents that said he was 21 at the time of the bombing and that, after being captured in Kenya, he told an FBI interviewer he had suggested the explosive be placed in such a manner as to cause less damage to local residents.
The lawyers said al-'Owhali believed the United States had a plan to occupy the Arabian peninsula and that he was prepared to die as a martyr in the fight against U.S. policies around the world.
The testimony of Clark and Denis Halliday, the former United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, was designed to elucidate a theme sounded by David P. Baugh in his opening argument to the jury during the death penalty phase of the trial.
"The defendant has been convicted beyond a reasonable doubt by you of doing certain things," Baugh told the jurors. ". . . But you have heard precious little of why."
In a videotaped interview with Baugh that was shown to the jury Monday, Halliday charged that the effect of the sanctions against Iraq, which caused widespread suffering and death--particularly among children--"sadly satisfies the definition of genocide."
The defense also showed the jury a portion of the CBS-TV program "60 Minutes" that aired in May 1996. The show stated that since the beginning of U.N. sanctions in 1990, about 500,000 children had died in Iraq of malnutrition and other medical problems.
Clark, who was cross-examined by Assistant U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald, said he had submitted an affidavit to a British court stating he believed Khalid Al-Fawwaz, who also had been charged in the bombing conspiracy and is fighting extradition, could not receive a fair trial in the United States.
Clark said American jurors are not sufficiently questioned on their views about Muslims to detect prejudice--an accusation Fitzgerald contested.
The defense is expected to end its case today, followed by closing arguments. U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand said he expected the jury to begin its deliberations Wednesday.
Sand told the jurors that after they deliver their verdict, he "would make every effort to have some hiatus" before the jury begins considering the second penalty phase of the trial--whether Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, who was convicted of participating in the Dar es Salaam bomb plot, should receive the death penalty.