The accused mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing goes on trial this week, facing the same judge who last year sentenced four men to 240 years each in prison for their roles in the blast.
The trial of Ramzi Yousef comes days after police say they stopped suicide bombers from an attack on a New York City subway.
U.S. District Judge Kevin Duffy has agreed to ask jurors privately before today’s opening arguments whether they were prejudiced by news of the alleged plot, or by a deadly bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 and injured 150 last week.
Prosecutors will try to prove that Yousef and co-defendant Eyad Ismoil, a Palestinian, drove a bomb-laden van into the trade center’s underground garage to shock the United States into curbing aid to Israel. Six people were killed and more than 1,000 others injured in the Feb. 26, 1993 explosion, which caused more than $500 million in damage.
Yousef, 30, an electrical engineer of uncertain nationality, is accused of organizing a group of accomplices and building the bomb. He had been a fugitive for two years when he was arrested in Pakistan in February 1995.
Both men are charged with conspiracy. The trial is expected to last four months.
Duffy last year sentenced four other men convicted in the World Trade Center bombing to 240 years each in prison.
Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA chief of counterterrorism, has said that the trial would explore who might have sponsored Yousef.
“We know he directed it all,” Cannistraro said. “What we don’t know for sure is all his associations and links to other people who may have been responsible for his ability to travel around the world, to finance his training and his activities.”