Plea Deal OK’d for Lawyer Passing Bin Laden Notes

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A plea deal by an Egyptian lawyer who voiced threats regarding the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings satisfied a federal judge Tuesday to drop his initial reservations.
     The three conspiracy counts to which Adel Abdel Bary, 54, copped on Sept. 19 carry a maximum 25-year sentence in a federal prison. Even the stiffest sentence may add up only to roughly a decade in a British prison, however, 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.
     The original indictment could have put Bary away for a mandatory life sentence.
     He admitted in the plea deal to transmitting “messages for the media personnel to my co-conspirators, including but not limited to Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden.”
     U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan seemed primed to reject the deal at a recent hearing, but he allowed the parties to try to convince him otherwise.
     Prosecutors and defense attorneys made their respective cases with separate letters Tuesday.
     In the government’s letter, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara described the evidence of Bary’s “direct and personal involvement” in the bombings as “limited and inferential.”
     Shortly before the bombing, Bary “had fallen out of the good graces” of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) leadership and “questioned his association with EIJ and its ties to al-Qaida,” the letter states.
     The parties contested whether Bary received a “threat fax” sent to his office on Aug. 4, 1998, three days before the attacks.
     Though Bary’s fingerprints were found on the fax, forensics experts could not show whether he picked it up before the attacks, prosecutors said.
     Meanwhile, defense attorneys pointed to other evidence indicating that their client criticized al-Qaida’s plans.
     “After reviewing that fax and mere days before the embassy bombings in Africa, Mr. Abdel Bary hand wrote a message denouncing the use of violence against the West (including specifically the United States) and condemning the use of violence against women, children, the elderly, and civilians,” defense attorney Andrew Patel’s letter to Kaplan states. “The note also said that if Mr. Abdel Bary were ever to learn that EIJ was doing any work with bin Laden, that he would have nothing further to do with EIJ or Zawahiri.”
     In accepting Bary’s plea hours after receiving these letters, Kaplan emphasized that the role of the court “is not simply to substitute its judgment for that of the prosecutor.”
     “The government’s decision here was a reasonable one, well within the bounds of its proper function,” Kaplan wrote. “This court finds that the charges to which the defendant has pleaded guilty adequately reflect the seriousness of his actual offense behavior … and that accepting the agreement in all of the circumstances will not undermine the statutory purposes of sentencing or the sentencing guidelines.”
     Kaplan pointed out that the 54-year-old Bary’s plea will send him to jail at least until his early 60s.
     “By that time, he will have spent most of his adult life in prison,” the 11-page opinion states.
     Kaplan scheduled sentencing for Jan. 12 at 9:30 a.m.
     In a separate order , Kaplan granted the government an anonymous jury for the upcoming trial of Bary’s alleged accomplices, Khalid al Fawwaz and Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai, better known by his nom de guerre Abu Anas al-Libi.
     Those proceedings are slated to kick off on Nov. 3.

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