Egyptian’s Guilty Pleas in Terror Case May Not Stick

     MANHATTAN (CN) – With trial just a month away, a Egyptian lawyer who passed on threats from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri to the press regarding 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings reached a deal with federal prosecutors, but it is unclear whether a federal judge will accept it.
     The three conspiracy counts to which Adel Abdel Bary, 54, copped carry a maximum 25-year sentence in a federal prison, but even the stiffest sentence may add up to roughly a decade in a British prison under the agreement the Egyptian reached with prosecutors.
     Bary has been incarcerated ever since British police picked him up on Sept. 23, 1998, roughly two months after the al-Qaida bombings that he trumpeted killed 224 people in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and injured thousands more.
     Skeptical of the deal, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan pointed out that Bary could have faced a mandatory life sentence under his original indictment, and he ordered the parties to justify why he should approve the agreement.
     Bary’s lawyer Andrew Patel said that significant reduction reflected what the parties recently learned about “this man, at this time,” referring to his client.
     “The indictment paints a picture that may be legally sufficient to obtain an indictment but does not necessarily reflect who Mr. Bary is and what he did,” Patel said.
     The attorney added later: “Things are not always what they appear to be.”
     Despite the lower sentencing exposure, Bary looked sullen throughout the Friday morning hearing. The defendant wept throughout the hearing, bending his head down, removing the glasses tipped on his nose, and wiping his eyes and nose.
     Wearing a navy-blue prison uniform, Bary’s downcast expression was accentuated by his wavy, shoulder-length hair. He assured the judge that the medications that he takes for clinical depression did not affect his plea.
     Later in the hearing, Bary read a prepared, and at times legalistic, plea confessing his role in the group he called the “Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Sites,” one of the names of al-Qaida.
     Before and after the bombings, Bary said in Arabic through an interpreter that he sent faxes and made phone calls helping al-Qaida’s current leader al-Zawahiri “threaten to destroy buildings and other personal properties by fire and explosions.”
     Bary also said he threatened to “commit future terrorist acts” in an attempt to “kill American citizens anywhere in the world, either civilian or military.”
     “I tried and I arranged to transmit the messages for the media personnel to my co-conspirators, including but not limited to Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden,” he said.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Buckley seemed to surprise Kaplan in saying that the Bureau of Prisons could dock roughly 15 years off Bary’s potential sentence for his time in British custody.
     Bary added that he understood that the bureau would, in fact, credit him that time, and that prosecutors promised not to interfere with a program that may allow him to serve his sentence in the United Kingdom.
     Buckley said that the U.S. Attorney’s Office believes the plea deal is “appropriate” in light of “the role that [Bary] played in the much larger conspiracy.”
     The prosecutor added that the guilty plea would “substantially reduce” the length of a joint trial that Bary faced with his two his alleged accomplices Khalid al Fawwaz and Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai, better known by his nom de guerre Abu Anas al-Libi.
     Their Nov. 3 trial was expected to last about three months, but it could be over within six weeks if the deal is accepted, Buckley said.
     Defense attorney Patel offered to write a joint motion with the prosecutors to convince Kaplan to endorse it.
     Kaplan remarked that it was “maybe the first time” he ever heard of such a joint filing and noted that this year marks the federal courthouse’s 225th anniversary. He allowed the parties to submit the document, however, within a week.
     If Kaplan ultimately rejects it, Bary will have the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea.

%d bloggers like this: