Second Circuit rules embassy bombings suspect may be resentenced for terrorism

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that a suspected Osama bin Laden associate, imprisoned for 32 years after stabbing a prison guard while in custody, may be resentenced according to heightened standards for acts of terrorism. Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a Sudanese national, was in custody in 2000 awaiting charges related to the 1998 bombing of two US embassies [State Department backgrounder] in Tanzania and Kenya when he attacked a prison guard and rendered him partially blind and paralyzed. Following the attack, Salim pleaded guilty to attempted murder and conspiracy to murder a federal official [18 U.S.C. §§ 1114 and 1117 text] and was sentenced to 32 years in prison. The government argued that the district court should have imposed a longer sentence according to the enhanced sentencing guidelines for acts of terrorism [US Sentencing Guidelines § 3A1.4, PDF]. The Second Circuit agreed, rejecting the district court's contention that the crime could not be considered terrorism because it did not transcend national boundaries. The appeals court held that the terrorism enhancement does not require transnational conduct, stating that "Congress could have defined 'Federal crime of terrorism' to include a requirement that the offense conduct transcend national boundaries, but it did not." Salim will now be resentenced according to the judgment, though defense lawyers indicated that they may appeal the decision.

Salim still faces trial for his alleged role in planning the 1998 embassy bombings. Last week, the Second Circuit upheld [JURIST report] the convictions of three men related to the attacks. In March, the US also charged [JURIST report; charge sheet, PDF] Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani [BBC profile] with several terrorism-related counts for his alleged involvement in the bombings. Kenya dropped charges [JURIST report] in 2005 against three other men connected with the attack in Nairobi that killed 224 people.

 

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