DA: Close court for part of NYC terror-plot trial

January 29, 2014

 

Prosecutors want to keep testimony by three key witnesses — an undercover police officer and two informants — out of public view at the trial of a man charged with plotting terror attacks with homemade bombs, a case in which police tactics are likely to become a central issue.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office wants the three to testify anonymously and in a closed courtroom at Jose Pimentel’s trial, set to start next month. A judge didn’t immediately rule on the issue at a hearing Wednesday, but he noted that there’s a high legal bar for closing courtrooms.

Prosecutors say the undercover officer and informants could be imperiled if their identities became public. But Pimentel’s lawyers say the court should stay open so the public gets a full picture of how police dealt with him during a two-year investigation.
Pimentel, a Dominican-born al-Qaida sympathizer also known as Muhammad Yusuf, maintained a website advocating jihad, or holy war, against the United States, police and prosecutors said.

He talked with one of the informants about killing soldiers, assassinating a judge or bombing police stations or the George Washington Bridge, prosecutors said. He was arrested while making a pipe bomb in the informant’s apartment in November 2011, authorities said.
American law strongly favors public trials, but courts have been closed to protect witnesses’ safety, shield classified government information, avoid traumatizing child witnesses or keep an undercover agent’s identity under wraps so he or she can continue covert work.

“Courts have to be very careful when they do this,” Pace Law School professor Bennett L. Gershman said, because appellate judges have sometimes reversed convictions when they found courtrooms were wrongly closed. In general, a judge has to establish that there’s a compelling reason to keep the public out and consider whether less restrictive alternatives would work.

Most terrorism cases are federal, but Pimentel was charged under a rarely used state terrorism law passed shortly after the Sept. 11attacks. The 29-year-old could face up to life in prison if convicted.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/da-close-court-for-part-of-nyc-terror-plot-trial/2014/01/29/6df2ac54-8917-11e3-a760-a86415d0944d_story.html

U.S. to seek death penalty in Boston bombing case

January 30, 2014

 

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old man whom prosecutors have accused of bombing the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 200 others.
“The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a short statement. The announcement ended months of speculation over the issue. Although Holder has said that he is personally opposed to the death penalty, the bombing was among the worst terrorist attacks in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings.

The decision sets the stage for the biggest federal capital murder case since Timothy McVeigh went on trial for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police in April, constructed and set off homemade bombs near the finish line of the marathon, according to investigators. Tsarnaev faces multiple counts in the April 15 bombing and is also accused of killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer in the days after the attack.

The case is in its early stages, and prosecutors could yet use the threat of death to strike a plea bargain with the young man and avoid a lengthy trial with bombing victims taking the stand to recount the attack. Since 1964, the federal government has executed only three people, including McVeigh. The Tsarnaev brothers came to the United States in 2002 from the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Authorities have said Tamerlan Tsarnaev came under the influence of radical Islam and probably recruited his brother to help him with the bombing, a possible line of defense if the case goes to trial.

After the bombing, investigators said a friend linked the older brother to a gruesome triple homicide in Waltham, Mass. Ibragim Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter, said the older brother was connected to the killings in which three men had their throats slashed. During a May interview in Florida, authorities said that Todashev attacked an FBI agent. The FBI agent shot and killed the Chechen American. The senior FBI official said the agent who killed Todashev was acting in self-defense and described it as a “clean shoot.” But the FBI has not made public the results of an internal review into the shooting or a larger review that examined the attack.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-to-seek-death-penalty-in-boston-bombing-case/2014/01/30/c15465d8-8785-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html

Lee Rigby murder trial: Michael Adebowale offers no evidence in his defence stating ‘I’m a soldier just like Drummer Rigby… I killed him because this is war’

December 2013

 

Michael Adebowale, 22, was the front seat passenger in the car that rammed the soldier before he got out of the damaged car and attacked the prone man’s body with knives, witnesses have told the court. His co-defendant, Michael Adebolajo, 29, claimed earlier this week that he was a soldier of Allah fighting a war because British troops were in Muslim countries.

He accepts that he attacked Fusilier Rigby, 25, near Woolwich barracks, southeast London, and tried to cut off his head with a cleaver. But he claimed that he pulled Mr Adebowale away from the body when the younger man started attacking him because the soldier was already dead.

Mr Adebowale’s legal team said yesterday that it would not be calling any other witnesses for his defence. “The evidence is now over. It means that the second defendant has chosen neither to give nor to call any evidence,” the trial judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, told the jury of eight women and four men. “You are not to draw any inference adverse to him from the fact that he has chosen not to give evidence.”

Mr Adebowale had claimed that the two men argued over who would carry the gun because they believed that the person who had the gun was more likely to be killed by police and achieve their goal of martyrdom. “To be killed on the battlefield is not something we shy away from and in fact this is something that Allah loves,” he told police during interviews played to the court last week. He said that he had “obeyed the command of Allah” to kill a serviceman.

The man accused of killing and trying to behead Fusilier Lee Rigby declared his love for al-Qaida in court on Monday and claimed he was a soldier for Allah in an ongoing war against the British military.

“I’m a soldier and this is war,” said Mr Adebolajo in evidence to the court on Monday. “Basically it is a war between Islam and those militaries that invade Muslim lands. One of them just happens to be the British military and therefore the war continues even to this day.”

Seated just yards from the family of his victim, Michael Adebolajo, 28, told the Old Bailey that he had no regrets about launching the attack on the defenceless soldier as he crossed the road near his barracks in Woolwich, south-east London. “I will never regret obeying the command of Allah so that’s all I can say,” he told a packed courtroom. “I’m a mujahid, I’m a soldier: I do what Allah commands me to do. I can’t do anything else.”

During comments directed towards the Rigby family, Mr Adebolajo accepted that he killed somebody that they loved. “I just hope that soldier’s life and his death might prevent the deaths of other soldiers who are being sent to die in unjust wars and save the lives of Muslims who are being bombed and killed by British forces,” he said.

Mr Adebolajo and Mr Adebowale both deny murder and attempted murder of a police officer. The case continues.

 

The Independent:

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/09/lee-rigby-murder-accused-adebolajo-religion-is-everything

The Telegraph:

Trial begins in legal challenge to no-fly list

December 2, 2013

 

SAN FRANCISCO — An eight-year legal odyssey by a Malaysian university professor to clear her name from the U.S. government’s no-fly list went to trial on Monday in federal court in San Francisco.

Rahinah Ibrahim claims she was mistakenly placed on the list because of her national origin and Muslim faith. She has fought in court since her arrest at San Francisco International Airport in January 2005 to clear her name.

Several similar lawsuits are pending across the nation, but Ibrahim’s legal challenge appears to be the first to go to trial.

Unlike a typical U.S. trial, where details important and mundane are disclosed in the name of justice, Ibrahim’s legal challenge has run head-on into the U.S. government’s state secret privilege that allows it to decline to disclose vital evidence if prosecutors can show a threat to national security.

Ibrahim’s lawyer is barred by court orders and national security provisions from delving too deeply into the inner-workings of the government administration of its suspected lists of terrorists.

Ibrahim, 48, lives in Malaysia with her husband and four children and is dean of the architecture and engineering school at the University of Malaysia.

Ibrahim said her trouble with the government began on Dec. 23, 2004, when two FBI agents showed up at her home near Stanford University, where she was pursuing a doctoral degree in architecture. She said the agents told her Malaysia was blacklisted by the U.S. government and they asked her if she had heard of the Malaysia-based terror organization Jemaah Islamiyah.

Ibrahim said she replied that she knew of the group only through news accounts. She said she was also asked about her involvement with the Muslim community in the San Francisco Bay Area and told the agents where she and her family worshipped.

Federal prosecutor Lily Farel told the judge the government could not respond to any of Ibrahim’s claims because of national security interests.

The U.S. government has refused to disclose how many people are on its no-fly list. The list is drawn from the U.S. National Counter-Terrorism Center list of suspected terrorists that authorities said contained 875,000 names as of May.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/trial-begins-in-legal-challenge-to-no-fly-list/2013/12/02/aa98d9f2-5baa-11e3-801f-1f90bf692c9b_story.html

NY judge rules against ex-bin Laden spokesman

November 26, 2013

 

Statements Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law made to U.S. authorities when he was brought to the United States earlier this year can be used against him at a terrorism trial next year, a federal judge said Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan rejected claims by Sulaiman Abu Ghaith that he was not properly informed of his right to a lawyer and that he was abused on a 14-hour flight to the U.S. earlier this year. He also refused to toss out the charges.

Abu Ghaith is scheduled for trial early next year on charges that he conspired to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaida’s spokesman after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He has pleaded not guilty.

Kaplan ruled after conducting a lengthy hearing. Abu Ghaith’s interview with FBI agents resulted in a 22-page statement after his Feb. 28 arrest in Jordan.

Kaplan said government agents who testified about the questioning of Abu Ghaith produced “consistent and credible testimony” while Abu Ghaith chose to rely on an affidavit rather than testify.

Kaplan said the “evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that Abu Ghaith was treated humanely while aboard the airplane.”

A month after 9/11, Abu Ghaith called on every Muslim to join the fight against the United States, declaring that “jihad is a duty.”

“The Americans must know that the storm of airplanes will not stop, God willing, and there are thousands of young people who are as keen about death as Americans are about life,” he said in the Oct. 9, 2001, speech.

Two days before that, he sat with bin Laden and current al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri against a rocky backdrop and spoke for nearly five minutes in one of the terror group’s most widely watched propaganda videos.

Abu Ghaith’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

 

AP: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ny-judge-rules-against-ex-bin-laden-spokesman

Daughter of Turkish victim testifies in Nazi terrorism trial

November 5, 2013

 

Gamze Kubasik, daughter of Mehmet Kubasik who was one of the victims of the murder series of the Nationalist Socialist Underground (NSU) testifies against the accused Beate Zschäpe at the court of Munich. Beate Zschäpe has shown no reaction or signs of regret towards any family members of the victims.

April 6th 2006, Mehmet Kubasik was murdered in his little shop in the city of Dortmund. Tragically, the police authorities suspected the victim to be connected to illegal channels of the Turkish mafia.

 

Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/nsu-prozess-verhandelt-mord-an-mehmet-kubasik-a-931954.html

Veils in court: judges to be given guidance, says lord chief justice

November 5, 2013

 

The most senior judge in England and Wales has disclosed plans to launch a consultation on whether veils can be worn in court as he warned the issue had become highly divisive.

At his first press conference since taking up his judicial post last month, the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, also suggested that in future criminal defendants might be able to take part in preliminary hearings from home via Skype or FaceTime video systems on their computers.

The former justice secretary, Ken Clarke, at the weekend stirred the controversy over the niqab by declaring that a fair trial could not take place if a defendant is “in a kind of bag”. In September, a judge ruled a Muslim woman would be allowed to stand trial while wearing a full-face veil but said she must remove it while giving evidence.

Thomas said: “The best way for dealing with this matter is to make a practice direction … The basic principle will be that it must be for the judge in any case to make his own or her own decision but we will give clear guidance.

Asked if he envisaged defendants appearing from home, he said: “I can see it happening for pre-trial hearings – whether one could go any further would depend – but certainly pre-trial hearing stage is one place we have to make changes.” We have to look at solutions that are innovative and will bring down the cost of litigation because we can’t afford to go on as we once did.”

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/05/veils-court-judges-skype-lord-chief-justice

NSU trial against Beate Zchaepe

October 2rd

 

The parents of one of the victims of the right-wing terrorist group National Socialist Underground (NSU) attended the trial against the accused NSU member Beate Zschaepe. Halit Yozgat was 21 years old when becoming the ninth victim of the NSU terrorist group. On April 6th 2006, he was murdered in an Internet shop in the city of Kassel.

Muslim woman Rebekah Dawson must remove niqab while giving evidence, judge rules

Rebekah Dawson arrives at courtJudge Peter Murphy made the ruling in the case of Muslim convert Rebekah Dawson, who is facing trial for allegedly intimidating a witness. The 22-year-old had claimed her religious beliefs dictated that no male other than her husband could see her face. Lawyers for the defendant had argued that forcing the 22-year-old convert to remove her niqab in court would be a breach of her rights under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights. But in a lengthy ruling, Judge Murphy said it was of “cardinal importance” to the adversarial system that a jury could see a defendant’s face while giving evidence. The issue first arose when Mrs Dawson refused to lift her veil in order to identify herself at a plea and case management hearing at Blackfriars Crown Court. The case was adjourned until last week when a compromise was reached and the judge allowed a female police officer to identify her in the privacy of a side room.

 

During his ruling, the judge revealed that Mrs Dawson, who was referred to as D, had only worn the veil since May 2012. But he said his decision would have been the same if she had worn it for years accepting that her feelings on the issue were sincere.

He went on: “I accept for the purposes of this judgment that D sincerely takes the view that as a Muslim woman, she is either not permitted or chooses not to uncover her face in the presence of men who are not members of her close family. I have been given no reason to doubt the sincerity of her belief.”

 

But in a lengthy ruling handed down today Judge Murphy said the ability for a jury to see a defendant’s demeanour during cross-examination was a principle part of the adversarial trial system. He said while the defendant would have to remove her niqab while giving evidence, screens could be erected or video links used to ensure she was only visible to the judge, the jury and counsel. He also ruled that court artists would not be permitted to sketch the defendant when her veil was removed. “No tradition or practice, whether religious or otherwise, can claim to occupy such a privileged position that the rule of law, open justice and the adversarial trial process are sacrificed to accommodate it. That is not a discrimination against religion; it is a matter of upholding the rule of law in a democratic society.”

Solicitors for Mrs Dawson have said they are considering their position but it is possible they could ask for a judicial review of the ruling.

 

Fort Hood gunman who killed 13 forcibly shaved in military prison

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The Army psychiatrist sentenced to death for the Fort Hood shooting rampage has been forcibly shaved, an Army spokesman said Tuesday.

Maj. Nidal Hasan began growing a beard in the years after the November 2009 shooting that left 13 dead and 30 wounded. The beard prompted delays to his court-martial because it violated Army grooming regulations. He was convicted of all charges last month at his court-martial at the Central Texas Army post and sentenced to death.

Now, Hasan is an inmate at the U.S. Detention Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., home to the military death row. Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday that Hasan had been shaved. He did not specify when or provide details, however.

Officials at Fort Leavenworth previously had said Hasan would be subject to Army regulations.

Hasan said he grew the beard because his Muslim faith required it and was not meant as a show of disrespect. However, Col. Gregory Gross, the original judge presiding over Hasan’s court-martial, ordered Hasan to be clean-shaven or be forcibly shaved before his trial.

The dispute over that decision led to appeals that delayed the trial by more than three months before the appeals court ousted the judge. The appeals court ruled that Gross did not appear impartial while presiding over Hasan’s case and that the command, not a judge, is responsible for enforcing military grooming standards.