A man suspected of being a terrorist and scheduled to go on trial in a matter of days has died in New York. Captured by the US in Libya in 2013, he was being held on charges of participating in US embassy bombings in 1998.
Libyan Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai (also known as Abu Anas al-Libi) was due to begin trial for the bombings outside the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya during which 224 people died, 12 of whom were Americans, and two of whom had been CIA employees. Jury selection would have begun on January 12.
Indicted by a New York grand jury in 2000, Ruqai has been on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorist list for over a decade with a $5m (£3.1m) bounty on his head.
Ruqai had been suffering from advanced liver cancer at the point of his capture in October 2013, and he was also known to have been suffering from hepatitis C. He was 50 when he died.
US officials have maintained that Ruqai had al-Qaeda links and had been working for Osama Bin Laden after seeking him out in 1992. However, Ruqai’s lawyer, Kleinman, has said that he had left al-Qaeda prior to the blasts in 1998. However, the indictment says that he had been plotting the explosions as early as 1993 with the militant organization.
US Attorney, Preet Bharara, said that Ruqai died on Friday night after being taken from New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center to a local hospital, according to a court filing on Saturday “due to sudden complications arising out of his long-standing medical problems.” Bharara added that “his condition deteriorated rapidly.”
His widow, Um Abdullah said that his US capture exacerbated existing problems. “I accuse the American government of kidnapping, mistreating, and killing an innocent man. He did nothing,” Um Abdullah told AP.
Libi’s wife said that he had undergone liver surgery some three weeks ago, slipped into a coma temporarily, but had been transferred back to prison too early. She had spoken with him last on Thursday.
“His voice was weak and he was in a bad condition,” she said. “It seems they didn’t keep him for enough time in hospital.”
Ruqai’s case had been the subject of prolonged debate because of his illness, and the judge responsible for his case would not see his case separately from a second defendant.
Facing charges of conspiracy to murder US citizens and destroy US property, he had pleaded not guilty on both counts.
An Egyptian man, Adel Abdel Bary, and a Saudi, Khalid Al Fawwaz, were extradited from the UK regarding the same bombings. Bary pleaded guilty to charges of terrorism and was given 25 years in prison.