Monday, September 25, 2023
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Saudi Linked to Bin Laden Fatwa as Gov’t Rests

MANHATTAN (CN) - The case against alleged al-Qaida propagandist Khalid al-Fawwaz drew to a close on Thursday with evidence linking the Saudi to Osama bin Laden's infamous fatwa seeking the murder of U.S. citizens everywhere.

Issued in 1996, the declaration fell two years before the twin truck bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es-Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people, injured thousands and put al-Qaida on the radar of U.S. law enforcement.

Fawwaz, 54, is not accused of participating in those bombings, but prosecutors say that he helped lay al-Qaida's ideological groundwork and trumpeted their bloody attacks.

The government's final witness, FBI agent Thomas McCarney, took the stand on Thursday to introduce dozens of edits of the fatwa found in two of Fawwaz's addresses in London into evidence.

One of the addresses was for the offices of London's Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC), an organization that presented itself as a nonprofit for Saudi dissidents, but which prosecutors called an al-Qaida front.

When the trial kicked off last month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Lewin told a New York jury that Fawwaz was "bin Laden's man in London" who allegedly ranked 9th on a secret al-Qaida list of their operatives.

Fawwaz's lawyers have contested the reliability of that document, which was retrieved from Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan reserved decision about whether to enter it into evidence.

Fawwaz acknowledges that he met bin Laden in Afghanistan as the mujihadeen - the plural form of mujahid, meaning one engaged in jihad - fought to repel the Soviet invasion of their country. He asserts that they worked together at ARC to oppose the Saudi government, but insists that he never signed onto bin Laden's violent war against the West.

One of the documents McCarney authenticated shows the names of Fawwaz and bin Laden side-by-side below the signature line of an ARC letter.

"For security reasons" the signers wrote that they could not reveal the names of ARC members unknown to the "regime," according to the letter.

Prosecutors, however, reject Fawwaz's self-depiction as a peaceful Saudi dissident, and introduced about 90 documents found in ARC's London office at 1A Beethoven Street that include violent rhetoric of those who became widely known as al-Qaida's top leaders.

One interview with Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri stated: "America, Israel, and the Egyptian regime are allied, and an attack on one of them is an attack on the rest."

The jury also saw several drafts of the bin Laden fatwa, published under the title "Declaration of Jihad on the Americans Occupying the Country of the Two Sacred Places," a reference to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

In the drafts, the texts remained mostly consistent, with formatting changes of the fonts and indentations.

The FBI also found web searches for CNN's interview with bin Laden, titled "Holy Terror?"

Fawwaz allegedly arranged for this interview, as well as the one with ABC's John Miller, who testified earlier in the trial.

Another file introduced into evidence contained the note: "I suggest you call Dr. mohammed otef [sic] who is an old garnalest," an apparent misspelling of journalist, "and a close friend to shakh [sic] osama."

A letter signed by Fawwaz and dated Aug. 21, 1998, less than two weeks after the embassy bombings, warned of "an official American report that takes aim at our brother."

The attachment showed a State Department release about bin Laden dated two years earlier.

Fawwaz's lawyers did not cross-examine the FBI agent.

With the defense case slated to begin on Tuesday, Fawwaz's attorneys failed to call ex-CIA agent Vincent Cannistrero, whom they hoped would testify that the agency covertly aided the Afghan mujihadeen at the time their client was there.

Their first witness is expected to be Ahmad Thompson, whom defense attorneys described as a British barrister who drafted documents for the ARC.

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