NEW YORK (AP) — A judge on Tuesday accepted the guilty plea of an Egyptian lawyer in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, saying the government acted reasonably in reducing charges against him.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan issued a written ruling after 54-year-old Adel Abdel Bary pleaded guilty on Friday to three charges: two conspiracy counts and a third in which he admitted making threats to kill Americans with explosives.
Bary's deal calls for him to spend 25 years in prison, with credit likely given for more than 15 years he has already been held in prisons. He also would be allowed to request to serve the remainder of his time in another country.
The judge on Friday did not immediately accept the plea, saying he wanted to hear why more serious terrorism charges that carry a possible life sentence were being dropped.
Prosecutors submitted papers to the judge late Monday, explaining that Bary was in London at the time and had no direct role in attacks on embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans.
"There is no evidence, to the government's knowledge, establishing that Bary assisted in planning for or in carrying out the bombings themselves, or counseled, commanded, induced or procured the bombings," prosecutors wrote.
But they said they believed Bary was a long-time loyal member of a group that was led for years by the current head of al-Qaida and was dedicated to the forceful overthrow of the Egyptian government and to violent opposition against the United States.
The judge said it was within the discretion of prosecutors to make distinctions between defendants even though co-conspirators are criminally liable for all the acts of the other co-conspirators. He also noted that Bary conspired with Osama bin Laden and others committed to a "program of killing Americans."
"A prosecutor's determination whether to enter into a plea agreement that contemplates the dismissal of some charges in exchange for a plea of guilty to other, lesser charges is a discrimination function of the executive branch of our government," the judge said. "While a court has a role to play in accepting or rejecting such a bargain, that role is not simply to substitute its judgment for that of the prosecutor."
Bary was held in Great Britain from July 1999 to October 2012 during a lengthy fight against extradition to the United States. Then he was brought to New York to face trial. Sentencing is set for Jan. 12.
In a separate opinion, the judge ruled that an anonymous jury will hear the November trial of Bary's co-defendants.