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Terrorism trial begins against accused New York bike path killer


Multiple bikes are seen crushed along a bike path in Lower Manhattan after a man driving a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path in New York, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Federal prosecutors were due to make opening statements on Monday in the trial of the man charged with using a truck to kill eight people on a Manhattan bike path on Halloween in 2017.

Sayfullo Saipov, 34, has pleaded not guilty to a 28-count indictment that charges him with murder and for providing material support to Islamic State, a militant group in the Middle East that the United States has designated a terrorist organization.

The U.S. Department of Justice told Judge Vernon Broderick of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan in September that it intends to seek the death penalty for Saipov, an Uzbek national. It is the first federal death penalty trial under U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat who took office in January 2021. If convicted, Saipov could also be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Prosecutors say Saipov intentionally used a Home Depot rental truck to mow down people on a pedestrian and bike path along the West Side Highway on Oct. 31, 2017, hoping to gain membership in Islamic State.

According to prosecutors, Saipov chose Halloween because he thought more people would be on the streets, and also planned to strike the Brooklyn Bridge.

Those killed included five Argentinian tourists and one Belgian tourist. More than a dozen other people were severely injured.

Prosecutors have told the court they intend to show the 12-member jury photographs and videos of the attack.

Saipov has been jailed since his arrest.

The decision to pursue the death penalty against Saipov came after U.S. Attorney General Merrick ordered a moratorium on federal executions in July 2021 while the Justice Department reviews its use of the punishment.

Federal executions had resumed in 2020 under then U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, after a 17-year hiatus, with 13 executions carried out before Trump left office in 2021.

The jury will not consider punishment during the first phase of the trial, but if they find Saipov guilty of any capital crimes they would then be required to weigh whether to sentence him to death.