NEW YORK (AP) — A Saudi Arabian on trial for allegedly conspiring to kill Americans made sure Osama bin Laden's messages were spread throughout the world before he was arrested in the wake of two deadly bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday at the start of closing arguments.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Buckley pointed at Khaled al-Fawwaz as he accused him of being one of al-Qaida's top operatives for nearly a decade, serving as a "bridge to the West" as bin Laden sought to spread his message that Americans should be killed wherever they are found.
He called al-Fawwaz al-Qaida's "expert on how to reach the West" and said he "understood the language of the Western media."
Buckley said al-Fawwaz "operated at the very heart of this conspiracy."
Buckley's closing was to be followed Thursday by those from a defense lawyer and another prosecutor before jurors begin deliberations, likely on Friday.
The defendant has pleaded not guilty. He did not testify during the three-week trial.
During an argument spanning several hours, Buckley leaned heavily on a list of al-Qaida members recovered in 2001 by U.S. special forces during raids on residences of al-Qaida's leaders in Afghanistan.
Al-Fawwaz, he said, was No. 9 on the list, a role earned through years spent as the leader of an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, as a member of a Kenya terrorism cell and finally as bin Laden's London-based link to the media.
Buckley told jurors they could convict him of conspiracy charges based on the list alone, though "there is much, much more."
During the trial, U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. David Karnes testified the list was recovered during December 2001 raids in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, where bin Laden and al-Qaida's Egyptian military chief, Mohammed Atef, both had homes. Atef was killed by U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan in November 2001, while bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. special forces in 2011.
Al-Fawwaz was arrested in London weeks after the 1998 bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans. Several family members of the victims have attended the trial.
In an opening statement in January, defense lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said al-Fawwaz knew bin Laden but never joined al-Qaida.
"He never shared those horrible views of Osama bin Laden. He never shared al-Qaida's support of violence," she said.
The defendant was extradited from Great Britain in 2012. He had been scheduled to stand trial with Abu Anas al-Libi — who was snatched off the streets of Libya in 2013 — but al-Libi died last month after a long illness.