A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld the life sentence given to a former Osama bin Laden aide who stabbed a prison guard in the eye.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Mamdouh Mahmud Salim's right to be present at his resentencing hearing two years ago was violated but that the error was not severe enough to warrant another sentencing.
U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts had imposed the sentence for what she called his "unusually cruel, brutal" attack in 2000 on guard Louis Pepe at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. The attack occurred as Salim awaited trial in the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The attacks killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans.
Before the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks, Salim was believed to be the highest-ranking al-Qaida member held in the U.S.
Salim, 54, had challenged the fact that he only appeared at sentencing on video and said there were technical difficulties in the videoconference link.
A defense lawyer and prosecutors did not immediately comment on the ruling.
The stabbing left Pepe brain-damaged and blind in one eye. Batts also ordered Salim to pay $4.72 million in restitution to cover the medical expenses for Pepe's continuing rehabilitation.
The resentencing occurred because the appeals court found that the original sentence in 2004 of 32 years in prison did not properly consider the terrorism aspects of the offense.
At the resentencing, Salim said: "I'm not a criminal. I'm not a terrorist." He said the stabbing occurred as he was trying to stab his defense lawyers to force them out of the case because he believed they were federal agents.
He sprayed Pepe with hot sauce to blind him before stabbing him in the eye with a sharpened comb he had hidden in his cell.
At the 2004 sentencing, Salim called the attack "the biggest mistake in my life."