NEW YORK - The four terrorists convicted of bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 were sentenced yesterday by a federal judge to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The judge, Leonard Sand of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also ordered each of the men - Wadih el-Hage, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, Mohamed Sadeek Odeh and Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali - to pay $33 million in restitution to the victims of the bombings.
None of the men are believed to have the assets to pay, but prosecutors said in court papers that the required restitution sentence would prevent them from earning money from possible future business endeavors, including writing and publishing a book.
In May, the men were found guilty of participating in a global plot to kill Americans in near-simultaneous bombings Aug. 7, 1998, of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Prosecutors said the conspiracy was masterminded by Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile whom the federal government said is also responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, in which more than 5,000 people were killed.
Bin Laden, the leader of the al-Qaida terrorist network, was also indicted for his role in the 1998 embassy attacks, in which 224 people were killed. He is being harbored in Afghanistan by the ruling Taliban and is the target of U.S. military action against that country.
In addition to conspiracy charges, Mohamed, 28, and al'-Owhali, 24, were also convicted of murder in connection with the bombings. Both men had faced the death penalty. According to federal law, a sentence to execute the terrorists would have required a unanimous verdict by the jury.
Yesterday morning, Mohamed, a Tanzanian convicted of helping to make the bomb and load it onto the truck that was parked outside of the embassy in Dar es Salaam, was the first to appear before Sand. Mohamed declined to speak but said through his lawyer that he "wishes to express gratitude to a jury that spared his life."
Al-'Owhali, a Saudi who rode the bomb vehicle to the embassy in Nairobi and tossed hand grenades before fleeing, was the second terrorist to be sentenced yesterday. He also refused his right to speak before the court.
Odeh, 36, who was found guilty of aiding and abetting murder in the embassy bombing in Kenya, was also sentenced to life without parole.
The fourth convicted terrorist, el-Hage, 41, addressed the court in a 30-minute speech. He told the judge that he was an innocent, law-abiding American and a devout Muslim who opposed violence.
Wednesday, el-Hage's lawyers asked for a more lenient sentence because he withdrew from bin Laden's conspiracy before the 1998 bombings.