A Saudi man who had been held in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta in connection with the 1996 bombing of a U.S. military housing complex in Saudi Arabia was deported yesterday after his legal appeals were exhausted.
Hani Abdel Rahim Sayegh was flown to Saudi Arabia on a U.S. government airplane, the Justice Department said. Sayegh is expected to be put on trial in Saudi Arabia, where he could be executed by beheading if he is found guilty.
Along with others under detention in Saudi Arabia, Sayegh may face charges that he took part in the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers, which killed 19 American servicemen and wounded more than 500 others. While federal law enforcement officials suspect that Sayegh was involved in the bombing, he refused to cooperate in the probe, and U.S. officials acknowledged last week that they lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute him.
Although the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, courts in Atlanta and Washington dismissed Sayegh's plea to remain here. He had sought asylum on grounds that he would be tortured in his homeland.
Attorney General Janet Reno said last week that the Justice Department had been assured by the Saudi government that Sayegh would not be tortured. Other officials said the United States would be permitted to monitor Sayegh's treatment.
Sayegh was paroled to the United States from Canada in 1997 so he could enter into a plea agreement in a terrorism case unrelated to the Khobar attack. After he failed to live up to that agreement, deportation proceedings began.
Last week, the Justice Department said for the first time that Iranian government officials are under investigation in connection with the Khobar attack. Federal law enforcement officials believe Sayegh may have information regarding Iranian involvement in the bombing.