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- By Jennifer RowlandJennifer Rowland is a research associate in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Chicago cab driver pleads guilty to material support charges
A Pakistani-American Chicago cab driver, Raja Lahrasib Khan, pleaded guilty on February 6 to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorism for attempting to send money to Pakistan-based terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri, who Khan believed was taking orders from Osama bin Laden (AP, Bloomberg, Reuters). Khan was arrested in March 2010 after his son was detained at an airport in London with $700 that an undercover FBI agent had given Khan for delivery to Kashmiri. And a 27-year-old Somali-American, Ahmed Hussein Mahamud, pleaded guilty on February 6 to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism for raising money in his community to help send men to Somalia to fight on behalf of al-Shabaab, on the pretense that the money would go to a local mosque or help orphans (Reuters, AP). Mahamud, who was indicted in June 2011, is the seventh man to plead guilty out of a total of 18 Somali-Americans charged in Minnesota’s ongoing investigation into recruitment for the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group.
An Uzbek refugee arrested on January 21 accused of providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorism for planning to travel to fight on behalf of the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), Jamshid Muhtorov, pleaded innocent in a court appearance on February 9, and complained that he had been held in solitary confinement and prevented from speaking to his wife or hiring an attorney (AP). And jury selection began on February 7 in the trial of seven members of a militia called the Hutaree, which opposes government regulation of firearms and explosives, accused of plotting to kill police officers in an attempt to start a wider war against the U.S. government (Reuters, AP). The men were arrested in March 2010, and face charges of conspiracy to rebel against the government, as well as weapons charges.
A U.S. District judge ruled on February 8 that lawyers for Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, who is accused of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, may neither see nor repress secret government documents that suggest Hammadi is "an agent of a foreign power," evidence that clearly refutes Hammadi’s defense that the government has failed to demonstrate probably cause in Hammadi’s connections to international terrorism (AP).
The FBI said on February 6 that it is seeing an increased risk of terrorism from the "sovereign citizen" movement, adherents to which reject all forms of government authority, often refusing to pay taxes, use U.S. currency, or even have state-made license plates on their cars (AFP). Though the movement has not historically engaged in regular acts of violence, the number of convictions in sovereign citizen cases has been on the rise in recent years, and authorities are keen to prevent a repeat of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Meanwhile, a report released by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security called jihadist terrorism "a miniscule threat to public safety" and says that cases of violent extremism involving radical Islamists in the U.S. are decreasing (NYT).
Gitmo arraignments could take place this spring
The Pentagon’s top legal official, Bruce MacDonald on February 3 rejected a deadline extension requested by lawyers for five Guantánamo Bay detainees, meaning that the alleged terrorists — including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — could be arraigned in the next few months (AP). James Connell, the lawyer for an alleged accomplice to the 9/11 attacks known as Ammar al-Baluchi, filed suit against Guantánamo commander Rear Adm. David Woods, for Woods’ directive to prison staff to examine mail sent from attorneys to their clients (AP). Connell argues that the reading of privileged attorney-client mail is equivalent to illegal "intelligence monitoring" of American citizens.
An Italian appeals court on February 6 overturned the conviction of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee, Mohamed Ben Riadh Nasri, a Tunisian man who was sent to Italy in 2010 and had been convicted of terrorism by a lower court (AP). And the Times’ Charlie Savage on February 8 examined the weak evidence supporting the continued detention of Obaydullah, one of 18 Afghans remaining at Guantánamo (NYT). A report released by the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee found that around 27% of former Gitmo detainees have been "confirmed or suspected to be presently or previously engaged in terrorist activities," and that it remains very difficult for the United States to ensure that released detainees do not return to militancy (Reuters, NYT).
Nine jailed in UK terror plot
Nine British Muslim men were sentenced on February 9 to between five and 17 years in prison for their various roles in plotting to detonate a bomb in the restrooms of the London Stock Exchange, and to set up a terrorist training camp in Kashmir (AP, Tel,BBC, Reuters, AFP). Britain’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) on February 6 ruled that an extremist Muslim cleric who has been held without charge for six and a half years, Abu Qatada, should be released on bail, despite the government’s belief that he still poses a terrorist threat (AP).
Umar Patek, the Indonesian suspected of constructing the bombs used in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, will go on trial in Jakarta on February 13, and could face death by firing squad if he is convicted (AP). Patek was arrested in Abbottabad, Pakistan in January 2011 and was extradited to Indonesia in August.
Anders Behring Breivik, the self-confessed perpetrator of massacring 77 people in the Norwegian capital of Oslo last year, told a court on February 6 that he thinks he deserves a medal of honor for his efforts to prevent "an Islamic colonization of Norway" (AP, CNN). Breivik was remanded back into custody after his last pre-trial detention hearing.
Manning to face court martial
The U.S. Army Military District of Washington announced on February 3 that Pfc. Bradley Manning will face a full court martial for allegedly leaking thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to the transparency watchdog website WikiLeaks (Reuters). Manning’s charge of aiding the enemy could bring him the death penalty, but prosecutors have said they intend to ask for a life sentence instead.
Civil rights organizations from across the United States on February 3 sent a letter to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman requesting an investigation into the New York City Police Department’s recommendation of increasing surveillance operations around Shi’a Muslim mosques based solely on the congregants’ religions (AP). In Canada, human rights groups and opposition politicians responded with outrage to a document obtained by Canadian media revealing that the government ordered Canada’s spy agency not to discard information acquired through torture, on the grounds that it could be used if Canadian lives are in danger (AFP).
Trials and Tribulations
- Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced in a statement posted to jihadist websites on February 9 that Somali militant group al-Shabaab has officially joined the al-Qaeda network (Reuters, BBC, AP, CNN, LAT, AJE).
- Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on February 8 that his government may pardon some of the 150 politicians and journalists that have been detained under the country’s anti-terrorism law since 2009, but denied that authorities were using the law to stifle dissent (Reuters).
- Carol Rosenberg reported on February 8 on the Navy’s efforts to "go green" at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, by using solar powered lights and having Navy police ride bicycles instead of using cars (Miami Herald).