NEW YORK (May. 25)
The four Muslim fundamentalists convicted of bombing the World Trade Center were each sentenced this week to 240 years in prison, without the possibility of parole.
The Feb. 26, 1993 bombing, the worst terrorist incident ever to take place on American soil, left six dead, over 1,000 injured and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
U.S. District Judge Kevin Duffy arrived at the sentences in an unusual manner. He said at the sentencing hearing Tuesday that he had consulted actuarial tables to ascertain the life expectancy of each of those killed by the blast. He then added together the years the victims were deprived of and arrived at 180.
The remaining years of each sentence reflect mandatory sentences of 60 years for two counts involving assault on a federal officer.
Each of the defendants was given a chance to speak in court. Mohammed Salameh used his time to express his support for Islamic causes around the world, including those in “occupied Palestine.”
Salameh, 26, was found guilty on 10 counts for renting the van used in the bombing, the apartment in Jersey City where the explosive ingredients were mixed and the locker where the explosives were stored.
In handing down his sentence, Duffy said the terrorists tried to kill as many people as possible by detonating the bomb at lunchtime when the World Trade Center is at its busiest. He called Salamch a “a coward and a sneak.”
“There has been no remorse, merely arrogance. Somehow you have a sense of achievement,” Duffy added.
Soon after, an identical sentence was delivered to Nidal Ayyad, 26, a chemical engineer who prosecutors say helped to construct the bomb.
‘YOU TURNED YOUR LIFE INTO A TOTAL LIE’
Ayyad, who was found guilty on 9 counts, ordered chemicals needed to make the bomb and had them delivered to Salameh’s storage locker. After the bombing, he sent messages to news organizations taking responsibility for the act.
Duffy noted that Ayyad, a college graduate, had a chance to make something of himself. “You are likely the biggest hypocrite in this room,” Duffy told him. “You had the best breaks and instead you turned your life into a total lie.”
Mahmud Abouhalima, 34, who was convicted on nine counts, put gasoline in the van that caused the blast on the morning of the act.
Ahmad Ajaj, 28, who was found guilty on 10 counts though he was in prison during the explosion, maintained several times that he had nothing to do with it. Ajaj gave a two-and-a-half hour statement in court, primarily about the suffering of Palestinians caused by “fascist Zionist gangs,” supported by the United States.
To Ajaj, Duffy responded, “You were in this plot up to your ears. The others were low; you’re even lower.”
After a five-month trial, the defendants were found guilty March 4 on all 38 counts in the case and convicted on charges including conspiracy, explosive destruction of property, interstate transportation of explosives, assault upon a federal officer and using or carrying a destructive device during a violent crime.
The defendants in this case have been linked to fundamentalist Muslim cleric Shiek Omar Abdel Rahman, a key figure in a second, more complex case that is to be tried in September.
Rahman and at least 13 other defendants have been charged with plotting to blow up several New York City buildings and assassinate political leader.
All four men sentenced this week had dismissed the lawyers who defended them during the trial and have indicated that they will appeal their convictions.