Saudi man gets life in U.S. prison for Africa embassy bombings

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Saudi MAN (MAN.XE)whom U.S. authorities described as one of Osama bin Laden?s closest advisers was sentenced to life in prison on Friday in connection with the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Khalid al-Fawwaz was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan after being convicted of four conspiracy counts in federal court in New York in February.

He was not charged with planning or participating in the attacks, which killed 224 people and injured more than 4,000. Instead, prosecutors accused him of working as a key bin Laden deputy in London, disseminating the al Qaeda leader's calls for violence to media outlets and arranging for supplies to be sent to the group's members in Africa.

In addition, U.S. authorities charged al-Fawwaz with running an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the early 1990s and helping to establish an al Qaeda cell in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi that later conducted surveillance ahead of the embassy bombing there.

Defence lawyers for al-Fawwaz, who did not testify at trial, claimed he was a peaceful political dissident who shared with bin Laden a desire for reform in their native Saudi Arabia but eventually turned away from the al Qaeda leader when he began calling for violence against U.S. citizens.

"My goal was reform, not rebellion," he said on Friday, turning to face victims sitting in the courtroom.

But Kaplan rejected that assertion, saying al-Fawwaz was "all-in" on bin Laden's programme to "instil terror" and commit murder.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Dan Grebler)