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CNN - Prosecutor: Yousef aimed to topple Trade Center towers - Aug. 5, 1997

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Prosecutor: Yousef aimed to topple Trade Center towers

August 5, 1997
Web posted at: 4:47 p.m. EDT (2047 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Ramzi Yousef, the man accused of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, once bragged to authorities that he wanted to make one of the twin towers collapse into the other, killing thousands of people, prosecutors said Tuesday.

In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin told jurors that Yousef was part of a "self-proclaimed army of terrorists."

The group, Dassin said, plotted the February 26, 1993, attack that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 to protest U.S. support of Israel.

Prosecutors said Yousef not only confessed to federal agents that he was responsible for the bombing, but bragged about his plan.

"This man," the prosecutor said, pointing at Yousef, "ordered and mixed the chemicals to make the bomb." Co-defendant Eyad Ismoil is accused of driving the van carrying the bomb into the World Trade Center's underground garage.

Yousef's lawyer, Roy Kulcsar, asked jurors to keep an open mind until all the evidence is presented.

Ismoil's lawyer, Louis Aidala, said his client should not be convicted because of guilt by association. Aidala said Ismoil lived openly with his family in Jordan after the bombing: "He had nothing to hide. He had done nothing wrong."

Judge polls jurors on New York bomb plot

Opening statements in the trial were delayed Monday after a juror called in sick.

Even so, U.S. District Judge Kevin Duffy questioned jurors individually Monday about what they may have heard or read about last week's arrest of two men accused of plotting suicide bombings in New York subways. He was expected to question the absent juror Tuesday.

Although no connection between the two cases has been established, Duffy wanted to ensure that each juror can remain fair and impartial.

Duffy cautioned jurors that news stories "were filled with what amounts to speculation; speculation truly off the wall," according to transcripts of the closed-door session.

According to broadcast and published reports, one of the two Brooklyn suspects promised in a note to "burn the ground under America" and demanded the release of six jailed Islamic or Arab militants, including Yousef and Ismoil.

Most jurors admitted seeing headlines or hearing radio and television reports of last week's events in Brooklyn. But all said they wouldn't be influenced.

Also Monday, Duffy dismissed a male alternate juror, saying something he said during jury selection could have compromised his anonymity. Duffy said the court hopes to protect the identities of the jurors.

This is the second trial involving the 1993 explosion. In 1994, Duffy sentenced four other men convicted in the first trial to 240 years each in prison.

Last year, Yousef and two other men were convicted of an unrelated plot -- a foiled plan to blow up a dozen U.S. jetliners in two days.

 

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