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World Trade Center Bombing: 1993-94 & 1997

Defendants Tied To Van, Bomb Manuals

Testimony eventually got around to the defendants themselves. Prosecutors produced as evidence the frame of a vehicle that experts placed at the very center of the explosion. The serial number on the charred metal matched that of the yellow Ford van rented by Salameh. Bank officers testified that Salameh and Ayyad shared a joint account funded by undetermined overseas sources. A Jersey City chemical supplier relayed that Salameh and the fugitive, Yousef, had bought thousands of dollars of raw materials, which experts identified as primary components used in homemade bombs. Other witnesses recalled Ayyad ordering tanks of compressed hydrogen gas, which were delivered to a storage locker rented by Salameh and Yousef. When the storage company asked the renters to remove the tanks, the canisters were picked up by a yellow van.

A gas station attendant recalled two customers filling a yellow van's gas tank on the morning of the blast. When asked to identify the men in court, however, the attendant pointed to two jurors. The witness identified Abouhalima and Salameh when he returned to court the next day. Apart from this tenuous connection, the only physical evidence against Abouhalima consisted almost entirely of sulfuric acid burns on shoes found in his home. Prosecutors noted that the chemical could be used to make bombs. Hassen Ibn Abdellah, Abouhalima's attorney, pressed witnesses to admit that the substance could as easily have come from a car battery.

The New York Times received a letter from the Liberation Army Fifth Battalion claiming responsibility for the bomb after the blast occurred. DNA testing confirmed with a 97 percent probability that Ayyad's saliva had sealed the envelope. No such scientific evidence was offered in the case against Ajaj. The government, however, contended that Ajaj's possession of military manuals containing bomb-making instructions was sufficient proof of his complicity.

Austin Campriello, Ajaj's attorney, argued that possession of the manuals had resulted in his client's detention by immigration authorities on September 1, 1992 and therefore could not have been used in the bombing plot.

"What he slid over," Campriello said, faulting lead prosecutor J. Gilmore Childers's view of the confiscated manuals, "was that [Ajaj's] material was taken from him that very day and was in the possession of the United States government until the very day the World Trade Center tragedy occurred."

During four months of testimony from 207 witnesses, defense attorneys offered no rebuttal witnesses or evidence of their own. None of the defendants testified on his own behalf.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994World Trade Center Bombing: 1993-94 1997 - Van Deposit Leads To Arrests, Far-reaching Conspiracy Alleged, Defendants Tied To Van, Bomb Manuals