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Terrorist Yousef Offered to Cooperate With U.S., Judge Says

A U.S. judge said Ramzi Yousef, convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, sought to cooperate with the government in 2010 while his uncle was awaiting trial on charges he orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Yousef later reneged, U.S. District Judge Kevin Duffy, who presided over his case, said in an Oct. 5 ruling disclosed yesterday. The ruling, which explains why the Manhattan judge refused to allocate additional court funds for Yousef’s lawyer after December 2010, is the first public account of Yousef’s offer to help prosecutors since he was convicted in 1997.

In the ruling, Duffy denied the lawyer’s request for payment, saying he only agreed to pay the attorney so that Yousef would be represented by counsel during his cooperation.

“Ramzi Yousef is a cold-blooded killer, completely devoid of conscience,” Duffy said in the ruling, while noting that Yousef was linked to earlier terrorist plots, including assassination schemes targeting the Pope and President Bill Clinton in the Philippines.

Yousef was sentenced to life in prison in 1998 after he was convicted of the the 1993 bombing as well as a plot to blow up a dozen U.S. airliners over the Pacific. His uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was charged in New York with Yousef in the jetliner bomb plot, has yet to tried on charges that he was the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Yousef’s Convictions

Duffy said that in early 2010, after Yousef’s convictions were upheld by an appeals court, he consented to pay Kleinman to represent Yousef solely for the purpose of determining if he’d cooperate with the U.S. The judge said he didn’t attempt to find out any details about Yousef’s cooperation offer to the government because of the jetliner bombing plot indictment against Mohammed pending in his court.

“Yousef had requested the opportunity to cooperate with the government,” Duffy wrote in his ruling. “I was about to refuse the request but, remembering the KSM-Yousef connection, I confirmed with the government that Yousef had made such an offer, and then signed the authorization.”

U.S. prosecutors have since abandoned plans to try Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators in civilian court in in New York in favor of a trial before a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Charges against Mohammed for the so-called Bojinka plot to blow up planes over the Pacific were dismissed in April 2011 when Mohammed’s prosecution was transfered to the military court.

Kleinman told a federal appeals court in August that Duffy hasn’t allotted funds to pay for his post-conviction work on Yousef’s behalf.

Prison Restrictions

The ruling by Duffy made public yesterday indicates that he didn’t intend for court funds to be paid to Kleinman for Yousef’s legal challenge to the conditions of his confinement in a federal so-called super-maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York in September rejected Yousef’s appeal of the restrictions on his contact with other inmates and with people outside prison. The three judge-panel told Yousef take to his challenge the federal appeals court in Colorado. The panel also questioned why Duffy had refused to allocate more funds to pay Kleinman, who said he hadn’t been paid for his work since December 2010.

Duffy said in his ruling that Yousef and his uncle had a close relationship. While Yousef was in Manila working on the Bojinka plot, he was visited by Mohammed, the judge said. Evidence provided by the U.S. showed Yousef became interested in the movements of the Pope and Clinton and had even acquired a Catholic priest’s garb and rosary beads, Duffy said.

‘Entertaining Thoughts’

“Some have conjectured that Yousef and KSM were entertaining thoughts of assassinating one of both of the visiting dignitaries,” Duffy said. “One thing is clear: Yousef was close to his relative KSM both in blood and in mental desire to wreak havoc on civilized society.”

David Nevin, a lawyer for Mohammed, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Duffy’s ruling.

Kleinman filed a letter with the appeals court in New York last night saying that Yousef’s alleged cooperation offer to the government “was a matter that has been under seal in both the district court and the court of appeals to date.”

“It is inexplicable, and wholly improper for the district court to now make this a matter of public record,” Kleinman said,

Six people were killed in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and more than 1,000 were injured. A Japanese man was killed during a trial run of the airliner plot, witnesses at Yousef’s 1996 trial testified.

The cases are U.S. v. Ramzi Yousef, 93-cr-180, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan); and 11-3920, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

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