NEW YORK — A jury began deliberating Saturday in the terrorism trial of a blind Egyptian cleric and nine other men accused of plotting a series of bombing attacks to terrorize the United States into changing its Middle East policies.
Deliberations probably will be lengthy as jurors follow U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey's 200 pages of instructions and study evidence from more than 200 witnesses. The six men and six women deliberated for 1 1/2 hours the first day before adjourning until this morning.
Prosecutors claim that Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman came to the United States in July, 1990, and began meeting with followers who carried out the slaying of Rabbi Meir Kahane in November, 1990, and the bombing of New York's World Trade Center in 1993.
They said the FBI used an informant who was paid more than $1 million to finally catch the ailing sheik and other militants as they planned a spree of bombings for July, 1993, that could have killed thousands in a single day. A plot also was under way to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, prosecutors charged.
The defense argued that the government created the conspiracy because it was embarrassed that it failed to prevent the Feb. 26, 1993, trade center bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000.
Last year, four men convicted in the trade center bombing were sentenced to 240 years.
Defense lawyers accused the government informant, Emad Ali Salem, of lying and of manipulating recordings to entrap their clients.
If convicted, the sheik and El Sayyid A. Nosair, the accused triggerman in the Kahane slaying, face up to life in prison. The others would face a maximum of 30 years.