By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - An al Qaeda operative serving a life sentence for his role in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Tanzania that killed 11 people should have restrictions on his communications eased, a federal judge has ruled.
Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 40, sued the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, arguing he has been unfairly prevented from contacting certain friends and relatives, including one of his brothers, in violation of his free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Mohamed, a Tanzanian national, is jailed at the so-called Supermax penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, which houses the most dangerous criminals in the federal penal system. He is only allowed to communicate with certain individuals on an approved list.
The federal government argued Mohammed, as an admitted militant, continues to pose a threat to the United States.
The case went to trial last month in Denver federal court.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger ruled the restrictions imposed on Mohamed’s communications were arbitrary “and unsupported by substantial evidence” presented at trial.
Mohamed was one of several conspirators indicted for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Kenya, and confessed to an FBI agent about his role in the plot. The judge mentioned in her ruling that he also attended an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 1994, where he learned explosives, weapons and religious training.
Mohamed told authorities that according to his understanding of Islam, it was his responsibility to take part in the embassy bombing.
Krieger said she was not persuaded by trial testimony from an FBI agent that Mohamed has engaged in hunger strikes, made disparaging remarks about the United States and made false accusations against prison staff.
The examples federal officials gave of such conduct by Mohamed were "entirely mundane and indistinguishable from the sorts of behavior" exhibited by other inmates, Krieger wrote in her 45-page opinion.
Krieger ordered the FBI and prison officials to review the list of people with whom Mohamed can communicate with a view toward possibly expanding it, noting that the case could have been resolved out-of-court had both sides cooperated to resolve the dispute beforehand.
Among the other inmates held at Supermax in Colorado are Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Shoe Bomber Richard Reid, and the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Jeremy Laurence)