A man watches a TV broadcast on the death of Osama bin Laden at Seoul train station in Seoul, South Korea.
U.S. federal charges against Osama bin Laden have been dropped. (Photo Credit: CC BY/americanistadechiapas/Flickr)

A U.S. federal judge has ruled in favor of dropping terrorism charges against Osama bin Laden, reports the Associated Press. This ends a case against the late al-Qaida leader that U.S. federal authorities began 1998. Before bin Laden’s assassination by U.S. Navy Seal Team Six in Pakistan earlier this year, authorities had hoped he would be brought to justice in a U.S. civilian court.

Clearing the docket versus the national psyche

While it is reportedly standard procedure for a judge to honor a request from the prosecution to dismiss charges if a defendant dies, having the bin Laden charges dropped smacks as being highly inappropriate, note multiple critics. That’s exactly what U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan did when federal prosecutors asked for the charges against Osama bin Laden to be jettisoned.

The al-Qaida leader was indicted in June 1998 in Manhattan federal court on charges of supporting the ambush that led to the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993. The indictment was later revised to include charges against bin Laden for two U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa in August 1998 (killing 224) and the attack upon the USS Cole in 2000. Curiously, no charges were filed against Osama bin Laden for the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Enter the al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian eye doctor and cleric and number-two man in al-Qaida was also named in the Osama bin Laden suit. Charges against al-Zawahiri include conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to utilize weapons of mass destruction against U.S. nationals and conspiracy to destroy U.S. property. As the top-ranked living al-Qaida leader, al-Zawahiri remains a target for U.S. federal prosecutors, not to mention the U.S. Armed Forces.

On al-Zawahiri, Fox News suggests that al-Qaida under his control offers the U.S. a threat not all that different than when bin Laden was running the organization. al-Zawahiri “comes out of the same intellectual tradition” as bin Laden, notes the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore. As such, experts predict with a fair degree of certainty that “the extremist philosophy of (late Egyptian author) Sayyi Qutb” will continue to be the engine that drives al-Qaida. Counter terrorism experts expect Ayman al-Zawahiri to maintain a presence in Pakistan, so the death of Osama bin Laden may change very little in the way the cabal operates.

Osama bin Laden: A retrospective

Sources

Associated Press: http://bit.ly/jtHinX

Fox News: http://fxn.ws/kV1hbz

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