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United States v. Yousef

    Brief Fact Summary. The judgments of conviction entered in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on charges relating to a conspiracy to bomb twelve U.S. commercial airliners in Southeast Asia was appealed by Ramzi Yousef (D), Wali Khan Amin Shah (D) and Abdul Hakim Murad (D).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the criminal conduct of terrorist occurred outside the U.S. which involved its airlines, the U.S. government (P) did not exceed its authority by trying the alleged terrorist in the United States.

    Facts. Ramzi Yousef (D) entered Manila under an assumed name in order to execute a plan to attack U.S. airliners. The plan was to place bombs on twelve U.S. aircraft with routes in Southeast Asia by five individuals. The conspirators would board the plane, assemble the bomb while in flight and then exit the plan during its first layover. Before the heinous operation, their plan was detected when Yousef (D) and Murad (D) accidentally started a fire while burning chemicals in their Manila apartment. The fire department involved the police department who discovered the bomb components, laptop with notes on the plan and other evidence. Murad (D) and Shah (D) were arrested by the Philippine authorities but Shah (D) escaped and evaded captured the following month. Yousef (D), Murad (D) and Shah (D) were charged with various crimes related to their conspiracy to bomb the planes through a multi-count indictment. A jury found all three guilty on all counts.

    Issue. When the criminal conduct of terrorist occurred outside the U.S. which involves its airline, did the U.S. government (D) exceed its authority by trying the alleged terrorist in the United States?

    Held. No. : When the criminal conduct of terrorist occurred outside the U.S. which involved its airlines, the U.S. government (P) did not exceed its authority by trying the alleged terrorist in the United States. Both domestic and international law are supported by the jurisdiction. Because the federal court had jurisdiction over the substantive crimes charged, including attempted destruction of aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, it also has derivative jurisdiction over the conspiracy charges. The conduct portrayed by Yousef (D) is proscribed by the Montreal Convention and his prosecution and conviction is both in consonance with and required by the U.S. treaty obligations and domestic law.

    Discussion. Jurisdiction over crimes committed on aircraft is regulated generally by the Tokyo Convention on Offenses and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft.  A genuine link between the state and the aircraft is required by international law in order for the state to lawfully assert jurisdiction over crimes committed on board.


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