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|NYC Trial Details Terror Planning|
|Defendant Who Pleaded Guilty Describes al Qaeda Training, Subway Bomb Plot|
The characterization came during opening statements in a trial in Brooklyn federal court which one of the men, Adis Medunjanin, is accused of receiving training by the terrorist organization while in Pakistain and returning to the U.S. with orders to launch a devastating attack.
Mr. Medunjanin has to counts including conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to commit an act of terrorism, conspiring to commit murder abroad and conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
He is the only one of the suspects who didn't plead guilty. His
The trial is notable in that unlike many other terrorism cases, the defendants weren't caught as a part of a federal sting. Instead, the prosecutors said Monday, the attack was fully operational rather than aspirational.
"These men came so close, within days of carrying out this attack," said James Loonam, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.
His attorney, Robert Gottlieb, said his client was seeking to support the Taliban fighting the U.S. in Afghanistan
"The truth is that Adis Medunjanin is not a terrorist," Mr. Gottlieb said. "In this case, the government is just wrong."
Testimony on Monday began with Mr. Ahmedzay detailing his friendship with Messrs. Medunjanin and Zazi. The three had attended high school together in the New York borough of Queens, and in 2008 they "made a covenant to go to Afghanistan and fight with the mujahedeen against American forces," he said.
Mr Ahmedzay said the three were told they would be more valuable as s in the U.S. and were given training in use of weapons, Mr. Ahmedzay said. Their handlers encouraged them to identify targets in the U.S. and execute a "mission" during the presidency of George W. Bush, he told the court.
He said the men accepted the mission and began planning it.
The original plan called for a car-bomb targeting major New York landmarks such as Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and the New York Stock Exchange, the witness said. But when Mr. Zazi said he couldn't build a big enough bomb because he had lost a page of his notes,
The attack was abandoned when Mr. Zazi realized he was being watched by federal and local authorities while on a car trip to New York.
Mr. Ahmedzay said he lied repeatedly to the FBI during the investigation and destroyed evidence.
"You would be willing to kill, to set off a bomb, but you wouldn't lie to a jury?" he asked the witness.
Noting that Mr. Ahmedzay faces a range of no prison time to life, Mr. Gottlieb asked Mr. Ahmedzay how much time he hopes to serve in exchange for his testimony.
"I hope to get that zero years you mentioned, sir," the witness replied.
Mr. Zazi, who was described by authorities as the leader of the cell at the time of his arrest, was expected to testify Tuesday..
Ahmedzay testified they discussed potential targets with their al-Qaida handlers in Pakistan, including Times Square, the New York Stock Exchange, Grand Central Station and Pennsylvania Station, but did not settle on a definite one. The goal, he said, was to strike a crowded subway station during rush hour, to maximize civilian casualties.
Medunjanin's lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said Medunjanin never intended to hurt anyone when he crashed his car into another vehicle on a New York City bridge just after calling a police emergency line to say that he "loved death more than you love your life."
Prosecutors termed that a jihadist slogan, but Gottlieb told the jury that Medunjanin meant only to kill himself, rather than be falsely branded as a Muslim terrorist.
According to Zazi and Ahmedzay, who also pleaded guilty, the trio became close friends after high school, bonding over their dedication to Islam - and to the Internet lectures of radical Imams. As they grew angry at the American presence in Afghanistan, they decided to go there to fight to the death - toperform jihad, as Zazi testified.
Zazi, who operated a food cart in New York, said he used more than 10 different credit cards to buy cameras, computers, jewelry and airline tickets to Pakistan in 2008.
The prosecution plans also to put on the stand two other confessed terrorists, including Saajid Muhammad Badat, a Briton convicted of plotting to use a shoe bomb to blow up an airliner.
|Saajid Badat: 'walking angel' who became a terrorist|
|Saajid Badat |
But unknown to those closest to him, Badat hid a dark secret - one that he would keep hidden until his arrest by anti-terrorism officers in November 2003. A secret that he had once hoped would go forever undetected.
|'Shoe bomber' has sentence cut after agreeing to give evidence against 'terrorists'|
|Saajid Muhammad Badat, |
Badat, who was jailed in 2005, saw his prison sentence reduced to 11 years in 2009 as part of a deal with prosecutors, it can be reported today.
It is the first time in the UK that a convicted terrorist has entered into an agreement with the Crown Prosecution Service to give evidence in a trial against other alleged terrorists.
Sue Hemming, head of the CPS special crime and counter terrorism division, said the agreement had not been entered into lightly. It will see Badat give evidence in the US trial of Adis Medunjanin over an alleged al Qaida martyrdom plot from 2008 to 2010, which opens in New York today.