NEW YORK (AP) — An Egyptian lawyer pleaded guilty on Friday to lesser charges in the 1998 plot to bomb U.S. embassies in Africa as part of a deal that would greatly reduce his sentence.
Adel Abdul Bary pleaded guilty to making death threats against Americans, but U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan put the deal on hold, saying he wanted to hear further arguments before agreeing to drop more serious terrorism charges that carry a possible life sentence.
Bary, 54, shook his head and wept on and off throughout the proceeding in federal court in Manhattan, where he admitted that he had essentially acted as an al-Qaida spokesman after the bombings that killed 224 people in Kenya and Tanzania. He told the judge he had contacted the media to claim responsibility for the attacks and later put reporters in touch with al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
"I arranged to transmit messages from media personnel to my co-conspirators, al-Zawahiri and bin Laden," he said, reading from a statement.
At one point, he paused to take off his glasses and wipe away tears. He had earlier told the judge that he was being treated for depression.
Under the plea deal, Bary would face a maximum 25 years in prison. He would also qualify to receive credit for the more than 14 years he was held behind bars in Great Britain and be allowed to request to serve the remainder of his time in another country.
Prosecutors told the judge they agreed to the deal because Bary had no direct role in the killings. Defense attorney Andrew Patel said, "I believe this is a just decision."
Bary, who was extradited from Britain to the U.S. in 2012, had been scheduled to go on trial in November with Abu Anas al-Libi, who was snatched off the streets of Tripoli last year and brought to New York to face terrorism charges in the embassy bombing case. Al-Libi was once on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists.
Bary's son has been named in reports by British newspapers as among those being looked at by investigators in the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State group.
Follow Hays on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APtomhays