Second Circuit upholds convictions in 1998 US embassy bombings

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Monday upheld [opinion, PDF] the convictions of three men found guilty of involvement in the 1998 bombing of two US embassies [State Department backgrounder] in Tanzania and Kenya. The court held that Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali, and Wadih El Hage [GlobalSecurity profiles] had received fair trials, and that none of the US government's actions against the men constituted violations of their constitutional rights. In a separate opinion [PDF text] addressing what the judges said was a novel question, the court rejected El Hage's claim that evidence against him obtained through warrantless overseas searches should be excluded, holding that such searches need only be reasonable to satisfy Fourth Amendment [LII backgrounder] requirements:

First, there is nothing in our history or our precedents suggesting that U.S. officials must first obtain a warrant before conducting an overseas search...

Second, nothing in the history of the foreign relations of the United States would require that U.S. officials obtain warrants from foreign magistrates before conducting searches overseas or, indeed, to suppose that all other states have search and investigation rules akin to our own...

Third, if U.S. judicial officers were to issue search warrants intended to have extraterritorial effect, such warrants would have dubious legal significance, if any, in a foreign nation...

Fourth and finally, it is by no means clear that U.S. judicial officers could be authorized to issue warrants for overseas searches, although we need not resolve that issue here.

For these reasons, we hold that the Fourth Amendment’s Warrant Clause has no extraterritorial application and that foreign searches of U.S. citizens conducted by U.S. agents are subject only to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of reasonableness. [citations omitted]
In a third opinion [PDF text], the court rejected Fifth Amendment [LII backgrounder] claims by Odeh and Al-Owhail holding that an "advice of rights" form given to the defendants combined with oral statements made by prosecutors were sufficient to satisfy the amendment's protections against involuntary confessions. The court also rejected Sixth Amendment [LII backgrounder] claims by the men, holding that a lower court's denial of defense council requests did not constitute deprivation of council. The court did, however, order the resentencing of El Hage because his original sentence was based on federal mandatory sentencing guidelines invalidated [JURIST report] by the US Supreme Court in 2005.

In March, the US also charged [JURIST report; charge sheet, PDF] Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani [BBC profile] with several terrorism-related counts for his alleged involvement in the bombings. In 2005, Kenya dropped charges [JURIST report] against three other men charged in connection with the attack in Nairobi that killed 224 people.


 

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