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WORLD | 09-01-2023 22:01

Terror trial over 2017 New York truck attack begins

Uzbek attacker Sayfullo Saipov stands trial on terrorism and murder charges for killing of eight people in 2017 truck rampage. Five of those killed were friends from Rosario celebrating 30 years since their high school graduation. At least 12 other people were wounded.

A Uzbek man went on trial in New York on a raft of terrorism and murder charges Monday for the killing of eight people in a truck rampage over five years ago.

Sayfullo Saipov allegedly drove the rented vehicle down a mile-long stretch of bike path in Manhattan as children and their parents prepared to celebrate Halloween on October 31, 2017.

It was the deadliest attack in New York since the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda hijackings brought down the World Trade Center.

Five of those killed – Ariel Erlij, Hernan Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damian Pagnucco, and Hernan Ferruchi – were friends from Rosario in Argentina celebrating 30 years since their high school graduation. Twelve other people were wounded. The attack only ended when police shot Saipov in the abdomen.

The proceedings mark the first federal trial under Joe Biden's presidency in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, according to US media.

That is despite Biden's opposition to capital punishment and a moratorium on federal executions, announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland in July 2021.

Garland also allowed his Justice Department (DoJ) to appeal to the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty in the case of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Observers say the examples of Tsarnaev and Saipov suggest that the DoJ is willing to pursue capital punishment for terror offences.

They also say it may be a way to pressure such suspects to plead guilty in exchange for a life term in prison. 

In the United States most executions are carried out by states, not the federal government.

And capital punishment cases are extremely rare in New York, which has abolished the death penalty at the state level.

Former US president Donald Trump's administration carried out a record number of executions after the US government had not carried out any in 17 years. 

Starting in July 2020 through the final days of the Trump administration, an unprecedented 13 federal prisoners were executed.

Federal executions were halted after Democrat Biden took office in January 2021.

Prosecutors say Saipov planned his attack for a year and chose Halloween deliberately in a bid to kill as many people as possible.

Saipov has claimed to have acted in the name of the Islamic State jihadist group, which described him as one of its "soldiers."

The trial is expected to last three months.

 

– TIMES/AFP

 

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