Isis-inspired terrorist Sayfullo Saipov guilty of eight NYC bike path murders in first Biden death penalty case

Sayfullo Saipov, who used a truck to kill eight people in a 2017 terrorist attack on a New York city bike path, has been convicted of murder, attempted murder, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and the destruction of a motor vehicle.

A 12-person jury at the federal courthouse in Manhattan returned the guilty verdicts against Saipov after less than a day of deliberation on Thursday. The jury’s next task is to decide whether the Uzbek immigrant will face life in prison or the death penalty for the attack, the worst act of terrorism in New York City since 9/11.

If the jury decides on execution, Saipov would be the first person given a federal death sentence under the Biden administration. His Department of Justice has sought capital punishment for Saipov and others, despite the president’s stated opposition to the death penalty.

The government argued Saipov was inspired by Isis to carry out the attack with the rental truck, and sought to be a martyr for the group.

During his closing arguments this week, federal prosecutor Jason Richman said the alleged terrorist “turned a bike path into his battlefield.”

As further evidence of the Isis-inflected nature of the plot, officials pointed to a jailhouse phone call where Saipov called himself a “soldier of the caliphate,” and noted his request to hang an ISIS flag in his hospital room.

The attacker’s attorneys did not deny Saipov’s role in the killings, but rather sought to distinguish them as lone wolf attacks and not part of a coordinated plot conducted with an international terrorist organisation. They said he was planning to die as a martyr, a notion he latched onto while spending time on the internet during his days as a long-haul truck driver.

“If you’re planning to die in an attack, you are not planning to join an organization,” New York City public defender David Patton told jurors this week. “I will admit that there is something strange about discussing the possible explanations for an awful crime that is inexplicable and senseless, but it’s what he’s charged with, and it’s the decision you’re being asked to make.”

The trial also featured firsthand accounts from survivors and victims of the truck attack, as well as their family members.

Friedel Decadt of Belgium described watching the suffering of her sister Ann-Laure, who ultimately died of her injuries.

“Her gaze was lifeless. She just stared up into the air and there was lots of blood gushing out of her mouth,” Ms Decadt said.

Prosecutors say Saipov ploughed a rented Home Depot truck onto Manhattan’s crowded West Side bicycle path on Halloween in 2017, killing eight and injuring numerous others in an Islamic State-inspired plot.

Many of the people killed and injured in the attack were tourists, ranging to a group of men visiting from Argentina to people visiting the city from nearby New Jersey.

The jury will reconvene next month to determine Saipov’s sentence.

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