The charges include conspiracy to murder military personnel and attempted murder. If convicted, the men could face life imprisonment. All five have pleaded not guilty.
The defendants, all in their 20s when arrested in May 2007, live in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Mohamad Shnewer, originally from Jordan, drove a taxi in Philadelphia. Three brothersEljvir Duka, Dritan Duka, and Shain Dukaare ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia who ran a roofing business. Serdar Tatar is from Turkey and worked in a convenience store in Philadelphia.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Hammer argued for three and a half hours that the defendants were members of a conspiracy and that the government did not have to prove that the conspiracy was successful, just that the defendants discussed targeting U.S. military personnel.
Rocco Cipparone, attorney for Shnewer, contended in his closing argument that there was no conspiracy, but simply the work of an FBI informant who molded the discussions and urged the watching of al-Qaeda videos.
Government officials are using the trial to deepen their attack on the political rights of working people.
U.S. senator from New Jersey Frank Lautenberg commented immediately after the arrests that there was a need to close a terrorist gap that allows people to purchase guns in the United States. Richard Canas, director of the state of New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, called the defendants homegrown terrorists. He said they are people who live and work in our communities and who enjoy the social benefits of our society while secretly aspiring to commit violence against our nation.
Leading up to the trial, over a dozen motions presented by the defense were denied by the judge. The five were denied bail. The judge also denied their request to move the trial out of New Jersey so they could receive a fair trial.
The defendants are being held at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia in a special unit where they are each allowed only one telephone call a month. Im caged like an animal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Shnewer wrote to the judge, complaining about their living conditions. Dritan Duka wrote, I dont know why they are treating us like this. Im worried that we wont receive a fair trial with all the lies being said in the media and by the prosecutor.
In response, U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler said, All of the defendants need to understand its called a jail for a reason. Its not a motel, its a jail.
No evidence of an illegal act
During the entire trial, the prosecution has not produced any evidence of an illegal act by any of the five men. The media has tried to whip up a campaign complete with headlines of jihad training, referring to a vacation the defendants took in the Pocono Mountains.
The governments case rests on testimony by two FBI informers who infiltrated the group. What becomes clear in the testimony is that these FBI informers were the ones trying to prod the group to take action. Mahmoud Omar, one of the FBI agents, complained to Shnewer in August 2006, You keep prolonging it. Weve been talking about this matter for three months. Start taking some steps. Thats it.
Omar offered to get machine guns and said he would put up $10,000. He secretly recorded hundreds of hours of conversations with the other men over 15 months. At least 125 files were confiscated from Shnewers laptop computer.
In one conversation recorded between Omar and Shnewer they talked about car repairs, about the injustices faced by Muslims around the world, and their admiration for Osama bin Laden.
Shnewer, speaking in Arabic, is quoted as allegedly saying, If you want to do anything there is Fort Dix. Ten days later the two men drove to Fort Dix with the FBI watching and listening as they discussed a possible attack. But no attack ever took place.
The second FBI informer, Besnik Bakalli, also secretly recorded conversations with the men. One recording was of Eljvir Duka saying that he watched the video that showed the May 2004 al-Qaeda beheading of Nicholas Berg in Iraq so many times that now we can watch it with no problems. Bakalli also went with the Duka brothers to the Poconos, where he alleges they held training with ammunition and weapons. However, in all of the secretly recorded conversations there is no reference to any specific timetable, target, or method of attack.
These two FBI informers reveal a lot about the character of the secret police in this country. Omar was recruited to the FBI in 2006. He had pleaded guilty to bank fraud and was facing deportation to Egypt. The FBI has paid him more than $200,000.
Bakalli was also facing deportation when he agreed to work for the FBI. He had been convicted of a weapons charge after shooting a man in Albania.
Ferik Duka, father of the three Duka brothers, commented after leaving the courtroom, Everything is set up. I said this from the beginning. They are all innocent. Its the use of criminal informers.
London court lets off cops in 2005 antiterror killing
British antiterrorist cops arrest Conservative Party spokesperson
Long Island cops cover up anti-immigrant attacks
Communist League opposes attacks on free speech in Canada elections
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