New developments in the “Toronto 18” terrorist trials

A 26-year-old Somali immigrant admitted in a Canadian court admitted he was a member of the terrorist group known as the Toronto 18 and had obtained handguns in the United States for the alleged ringleader. Ali Mohamed Dirie also acknowledged that, even while behind bars serving a prison sentence for smuggling two guns into Canada, he had tried to buy more guns and recruit other inmates into the group.

For almost two hours, the Crown prosecutor Clyde Bond read a 28-page statement of facts in a Brampton courtroom. When he was finished, Dirie, dressed in a gray hoody, baggy jeans and a blue skullcap, was asked if he agreed it was accurate. He agreed and pleaded guilty on Monday to participating in the activities of a terrorist group. He is to be sentenced on Oct. 2. A second charge of committing an offense for a terrorist group was stayed yesterday. Dirie faces a maximum 10-year sentence.

US Muslim charity leaders get 65 years in jail for Hamas support

Two former leaders of the Texas-based Holy Land foundation were sentenced to 65 years in jail for supporting Palestinian militants. Jurors returned guilty verdicts on 108 charges of providing material support to terrorists, money laundering, and tax fraud. “These sentences should serve as a strong warning to anyone who knowingly provides financial support to terrorists under the guise of humanitarian relief,” said David Kris, assistant US attorney general for national security. Holy Land CEO Shukri Abu Baker and chairman and co-founder Ghassan Elashi, were both sentenced to 65 years in jail. Holy Land cofounder Mohammad El-Mezain, and Abdulrahman Odeh, the charity’s New Jersey representative, both received lesser sentences of 15 years. The Justice Department vowed in October 2007 to retry the five Holy Land leaders after jurors could not agree on verdicts on nearly 200 charges, and a new jury was seated in mid-September. Holy Land was one of several Muslim organizations the Bush administration shut down in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for allegedly raising money for Islamic extremists overseas. Muslim charities that remained open suffered significant drops I contributions because of fears of prosecution.

Men held for anti-US attack plot

Germany will launch one of its biggest terror trials in decades on Wednesday against four alleged Islamic extremists accused of plotting devastating attacks against US interests. The so-called Sauerland cell was named for a region east where authorities captured the suspects in September 2007 along with 26 detonators and 12 drums of hydrogen peroxide, the substance used in the deadly attacks on London’s transport system two years before. A fourth suspect was extradited from Turkey to Germany in November. Their aim, authorities say, was a deadly bombing “of unimaginable size”, according to chief federal prosecutor Monika Harms, that would also punish Germany for its military presence in Afghanistan. Prosecutors say the four are hardened members of the Islamic Jihad Union, a militant Islamic extremist group with roots in Uzbekistan and ties to al-Qaeda which is believed to have set up training camps for militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The suspects are accused of planning to car bomb targets including US institutions in Germany and nightclubs popular with Americans.

Muslims may not have to undergo sniffer dog checks in UK

Muslim passengers may not be touched by sniffer dogs of the British Transport Police after complaints that the practice is against Islam. According to the religion, dogs are deemed to be spiritually unclean. A Transport Department report has raised the prospect that animals should only touch passengers’ luggage because it is considered more acceptable, the Daily Express reported. The ban may restrict the efficiency of sniffer dog squads which have been trained to spot terrorists at railway stations. On Thursday night, British Transport Police insisted that it would still use sniffer dogs with any passengers regardless of faith, but handlers would remain aware of cultural sensitivities. The Transport Department report follows the trials of station security measures in the wake of the 2005 London suicide bomb attacks. In one trial, certain Muslim women said the use of a body scanner was also unacceptable because it amounted to being forced to strip.

Jordanian admits to chatroom terrorist conspiracy

A 33-year-old Jordanian man admitted to a German court Wednesday that he had participated in internet chatroom conversations that discussed committing terrorist acts. The man, identified as Thaer A, is charged with attempting to establish an islamist terrorist training camp in Sudan, along with Redouane el-H, a German of Moroccan origin who was jailed for more than five years last month after being guilty on a similar charge. Both trials relied largely on evidence compiled through police monitoring of internet chatrooms in an international operation. On the opening day of the trial, the court sitting in the northern city of Schleswig, heard that A, whose family comes originally from the Palestinian region, was supposed to provide the financial means for the cell. Police tracked down the members of the cell by monitoring chatroom conversations, arresting A in Sweden in March last year. “I took part in the conversations,” A told the court through his defence counsel. The defence has reached agreement with the prosecution and the court on reduction of sentence.

Immigration Law Used In Antiterror Fight: Us Sees Easy Route To Detain Suspects

By Mary Beth Sheridan WASHINGTON — The federal government is waging part of the war against terrorism with a seemingly innocuous weapon: immigration law. In the past two years, officials have filed immigration charges against more than 500 suspects who have come under scrutiny in national security investigations, according to previously undisclosed government figures. Whereas terrorism charges can be difficult to prosecute, Department of Homeland Security officials say immigration laws can provide a quick, easy way to detain people who could be planning attacks. Authorities have used routine charges such as overstaying a visa to deport suspected supporters of terrorist groups. ”It’s an incredibly important piece of the terrorism response,” said Michael J. Garcia, who heads Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. And although immigration violations might seem humdrum, he said, ”They’re legitimate charges.” Muslim and civil liberties activists disagree. They argue that authorities are enforcing minor violations by Muslims and Arabs, while ignoring millions of other immigrants who flout the same laws. They note that many of those charged are not shown to be involved in terrorism. ”The approach is basically to target the Muslim and Arab community with a kind of zerotolerance immigration policy. No other community in the United States is treated to zero-tolerance enforcement,” said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor and critic of the government’s antiterrorism policies. Before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, immigration agents were minor players in the world of counterterrorism. That changed during the investigation of the hijackings, when 768 suspects were secretly processed on immigration charges. Most were deported after being cleared of connections to terrorism. Unlike that controversial roundup, most of the recent arrests have not involved secret proceedings. Still, they can be hard to track. A few cases have turned into high-profile criminal trials, but others have centered on little-known individuals processed in obscure immigration courts, with no mention of a terrorism investigation. In some cases, the government ultimately concludes a suspect, while guilty of an immigration violation, has no terrorism ties. Authorities are often reluctant to disclose why an immigrant’s name emerged in a national security investigation, because the information is classified or part of a continuing inquiry. Homeland Security officials turned down a request for the names of all those charged in the past two years, making it difficult to assess how effective their strategy has been at thwarting terrorism.