January 21, 2015 / 6:19 PM / 3 years ago

Bin Laden's ex-secretary loses appeal of life sentence

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden’s former personal secretary lost a bid to throw out his life sentence for conspiring to bomb U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which killed 224 people and injured thousands.

Wadih El-Hage, 54, had argued that a life sentence was out of proportion to his relative lack of culpability in the attacks. He was in Texas with his family at the time of the bombings and was not accused of planning them; instead, he was convicted of helping al Qaeda establish front businesses and lying to a grand jury about bin Laden.

But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan had properly considered El-Hage’s responsibility in imposing sentence.

The decision came as another accused al Qaeda associate, Khalid al-Fawwaz, faces trial in New York before Kaplan in connection with the bombings. U.S. authorities say Fawwaz, 52, helped disseminate declarations of war for bin Laden via a London media office.

El-Hage, a Lebanese-born U.S. citizen, was one of four people convicted in 2001 for their roles in the bombings and was initially sentenced to life in prison in October 2001 by U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand, now deceased.

The 2nd Circuit overturned that sentence in 2008, citing a 2005 Supreme Court decision that struck down the mandatory use of federal sentencing guidelines. The appeals court sent the case back to district court, where Kaplan again sentenced him to life.

A lawyer for El-Hage, Julia Heit, did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Christian Plumb

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