NEW YORK (AP) — An Egyptian attorney who pleaded guilty in connection to the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa told a judge preparing to sentence him that he has always opposed violence and wants to return to his family.
A letter from Adel Abdul Bary was included in court papers filed Friday by lawyers who struck a surprising plea deal with prosecutors in September that means he will face no more than 25 years in prison and be credited for 15 years he's already served. The court filing came the same day a co-defendant died just days before his Manhattan trial was to start.
Bary pleaded guilty in September to making death threats against Americans and is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 12. His plea deal also says he can serve the remainder of his term in another country. The Aug. 7, 1998, truck bombings at U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salam, Tanzania, killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Bary was originally charged based on disputed evidence that documents claiming responsibility for the bombings were recovered from his office with his fingerprints on them. Defense lawyers say the government has conceded it cannot confirm when the faxes were sent or when Bary touched the faxes, transferring his fingerprints to them.
According to defense lawyers, Bary sought asylum in the United Kingdom in 1991 after joining a team of Egyptian lawyers who traveled to New York to represent El Sayyid Nosair in the Manhattan hotel killing of extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Bary was arrested in connection with the bombings in September 1998 by United Kingdom authorities and again in July 1999, when he was charged by U.S. prosecutors. He was extradited to New York in October 2012.
In his letter, written in Arabic and translated for the judge, Bary admitted he supported Al-Jihad, an extremist group that fought the regime of ex-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the 1990s with a wave of bombings and other attacks that also targeted foreign tourists.
"If I could go back in time, I would never have helped the al-Jihad group with actions such as facilitating communications knowing now that innocent people could possibly have been harmed as a result. For this I am truly and deeply sorry," Bary said.
The 54-year-old defendant said he hoped to rejoin his family as soon as possible.
Bary said in the letter that he had repeatedly spoken out against those who advocate the use of violence and had written that threats against the West and specifically against the United States are wrong.
He said he targeted Mubarak's regime because it had "ripped me away from my wife and my children."
He added: "No one can imagine the pain, humiliation and inhumane way I was treated by the Egyptian government. I know that beyond my scars and pain, violence achieves nothing but more violence and pain. Innocent people should not be harmed in this way or any way. It horrifies me that they were."
Bary said he was tortured by the Egyptian government in a prison where he was hung from the ceiling by his wrists or feet while electric probes shocked his face and genitals. He wrote that the worst torture was seeing family members, "who had engaged in no political activity of any kind, being tortured in front of my eyes."
In written arguments, defense lawyers for Bary made no sentencing recommendations but noted that their client had always opposed violence. They said Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has received a letter from two members of British Parliament saying Bary was known during his incarceration in Great Britain "as someone who argued a counter extremist line."
The defense also cited Bary's continuing physical and mental injuries resulting from torture.
Prosecutors have yet to submit their presentence arguments.