Facebook Twitter

240-YEAR SENTENCES IN ’93 N.Y. BOMBING

SHARE 240-YEAR SENTENCES IN ’93 N.Y. BOMBING

Three Muslim fundamentalists convicted in the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center were sentenced Tuesday to 240 years in prison. The judge called one a coward for planting a bomb "to kill innocents."

Mohammed Salameh, Nidal Ayyad and Mahmoud Abouhalimi were sentenced at a lengthy hearing after they were given the chance to address the court. They spoke in Arabic, which was then translated into English. A fourth defendant was awaiting his sentencing Tuesday afternoon.U.S. District Judge Kevin Duffy sentenced the men after hearing a statement by the husband of a pregnant clerical worker killed in the explosion.

"I'll never get a chance to see him grow up," Ed Smith said of the boy his wife, Monica, was carrying. "We all lost this because of four men who wanted to blow up landmarks in New York."

The Feb. 26, 1993, bombing killed six people and injured more than 1,000 in the 110-story twin towers, the world's second-tallest buildings.

Salameh, 26, a Palestinian immigrant, was convicted March 4 on charges of conspiracy, explosives charges and assault. In his half-hour speech to the court, he proclaimed his innocence and accused the U.S. government of covering up the real story of the bombing.

"I wonder how long I will remain in prison until the government reveals I was innocent?" said Salameh. "Two years? Seven? Ten? Twenty? God only knows."

The sentencing in a heavily guarded courthouse capped a trial that lasted more than five months and involved more than 200 witnesses and more than 1,000 exhibits.

Duffy said the 240-year sentences were calculated according to the life expectancy of the six killed by the bomb - 180 years - and adding 30 years each on two further counts.

"My intention is you stay there (in prison) for the rest of your life," Duffy said after sentencing Salameh. The judge added, "It is the mark of a sneak and a coward to plant the bomb to kill innocents and to steal away, and that's what you are - a coward."

Duffy, who also fined the defendants $250,000 each, told them that any money generated by story rights or book deals would go to the victims' survivors.

"I can't imagine anyone wanting to give you anything," Duffy told Ayyad.

Salameh was accused of helping pay for and assemble the bomb before renting the van that carried it into the trade center's underground parking garage.

Ayyad, 26, a chemist, allegedly ordered chemicals for the bomb and sent messages to news organizations afterward that the motive was to protest U.S. aid to Israel.

Abouhalima, 34, was often seen in the apartment where the bomb was built, while Ahmad Ajaj, 28, allegedly provided bomb-making expertise. Ajaj was in jail on a false-passport conviction when the blast occurred.

Ajaj lived in Houston; the others lived in New Jersey.

Defense lawyers said the government exaggerated evidence to trap the defendants into appearing to be part of a larger conspiracy.

Before the verdict, Salameh became upset with his lawyer who surprisingly acknowledged during closing arguments that his client was involved in a conspiracy.