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Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman Trial: 1995-96

Jury Convicts On 48 Charges

The trial, which involved testimony from 200 witnesses, went to jury deliberations the third week of September 1995. On Sunday, October 1, 1995, the 10 defendants were found guilty on 48 of 50 charges. Nosair and his cousin, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny, were cleared of complicity in the citywide bombing plot. They were convicted, however, of assault and conspiracy charges, including a plot to help Nosair escape from Attica prison and flee the country using fake passports. The other defendants—Alvarez, Hampton-El, Amir Abdelgani, Fadil Abdelghani, Tarig Elhassan, Fares Khallafalla, and Mohammed Saleh—were all convicted of conspiracy and charges relating to the preparation of bombs to be used in the planned attacks.

The defendants remained silent when the verdicts were read. Before they were sentenced on January 17, 1996, however, each took the opportunity to declare his innocence. Sheik Abdel Rahman angrily denounced the United States and the trial proceedings for over an hour and a half before Judge Michael B. Mukasey cut him off. "This case is nothing but an extension of the American war against Islam," protested Abdel Rahman.

The judge was unimpressed. "You were convicted of directing others to perform acts which, if accomplished, would have resulted in the murder of hundreds if not thousands of people," Mukasey said, adding that the bombing of the World Trade Center would have seemed "insignificant" by comparison.

The blind cleric received a life sentence for conspiracy and solicitation to commit sedition, assassination, and attacks on U.S. military installations. Nosair, who was convicted of conspiracy, assault, and the 1990 murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane, also received a life sentence. El-Gabrowny was sentenced to 57 years imprisonment for assault and plotting to aid Nosair. The remaining defendants received sentences ranging from 25-35 years for their parts in the bombing conspiracy.

Controversies over alleged connections between politics, religion, and the legal system continued long after Sheik Abdel Rahman was incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. His supporters continued to press for the diabetic cleric's release on medical grounds, and to protest that he had been framed by the United States as a favor to the Egyptian government.

Tom Smith

Suggestions for Further Reading

Dwyer, Jim et al. Two Seconds under the World. New York: Crown Publishers, 1994.

Fried, Joseph P. "Closing Arguments Start Tuesday In Terror-Bomb Trial." New York Times (September 3, 1995): B30.

. "Sheik and Nine Followers Guilty of a Conspiracy of Terrorism." New York Times (October 2, 1995): Al.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentSheik Omar Abdel Rahman Trial: 1995-96 - Sheik Arrested In Terrorist Plot, Bomb Factory Described In Testimony, Defense Claims Religious Persecution, Jury Convicts On 48 Charges