A federal court judge in New York has sentenced four men convicted of the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to life in prison. The terrorist blasts killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Judge Leonard B. Sand handed down the sentences in a federal courthouse under extraordinarily heavy guard, just blocks away from the site of the devastated World Trade Center. Steel and concrete barricades, bomb sniffing dogs, federal marshals armed with shotguns and police vans surround the building.
In late May, a jury found the four men guilty of participating in a worldwide conspiracy to kill Americans. Now Judge Sand has sentenced all to life in prison without parole.
Two of the men, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed and Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali, faced the death penalty for their direct role in the bombings. But the same jury later decided to waive the death sentence, fearing that it would make martyrs of the defendants.
The other two men were, Mohamed Sadeek Odeh and Wadih El-Hage, were not charged in directly carrying out the bombings, but found guilty of participating in the overall plot.
Wadih El-Hage, who admitted to a business relationship with bin Laden, is a Lebanese-born American citizen who converted to Islam in college. In a statement to the courtroom, he denied any role in the bombings and said the "killing of innocent people is radical, extreme and cannot be tolerated by any religion, principles or values."
For Odeh's lawyer, Anthony Ricco, the message of the five-month long trial is the triumph of the rule of law. "It sends a more important message to our country, that we are a country of laws, a country where people have a right to a trial, a right to have attorneys work on their behalf. I think the more powerful message is really to us. This trial is really about us. And it is really about showing that we have a system of laws and that system will be out to the test and the system will work.'
Mr. Ricco says he intends to appeal Odeh's sentence.
The sentencing was originally scheduled for last month but was delayed after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Prosecutors say the attacks in Africa and the United States are part of a global plot led by suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. More than a dozen people indicted in the bombings remain at large. Twelve of them appeared on the FBI's most recent "Most Wanted" list, including Osama bin Laden.