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Kenyan terror suspect claims US wrongly used jail informants

May 13, 2015

MIAMI (AP) — A Kenyan man accused of supporting extremists around the world claims that jailhouse informants were improperly used as U.S. government agents to gather evidence against him.

The FBI used as many as five informants to gather what may be incriminating evidence against Mohamed Said and obtain the defense’s trial strategy, attorney Silvia Pinera-Vazquez said in new court documents. She said attempts were made by some informants to persuade Said to seek a different lawyer who might make a deal for him to plead guilty rather than go to trial.

The motion filed Tuesday asks a judge to suppress any evidence from the informants, contending such actions would violate Said’s constitutional rights to effective legal counsel.

U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ordered the Miami U.S. attorney’s office to disclose by Friday “whether the informants were at any time acting as government agents.”

Said, 27, is scheduled to stand trial in June on eight charges involving alleged support for al-Qaida and other extremist groups in Africa and Syria. Said has pleaded not guilty and has been jailed since his 2013 arrest.

The charges are based on chat room conversations Said allegedly had with undercover FBI operatives about financing extremist groups and recruiting fighters for groups overseas. A co-defendant, Gufran Mohammed, is serving a 15-year prison sentence after pleading guilty last year.

Pinera-Vazquez said in her motion that the FBI use of jailhouse informants was recently disclosed to her in seven FBI reports detailing how Said allegedly made incriminating statements while in custody and discussed his defense.

A cornerstone of the defense is whether prosecutors can prove it actually was Said at a computer in Mombasa, Kenya, when some of the online conversations took place.

In one example, Pinera-Vazquez said one informant told U.S. investigators about a key laptop at Said’s home, leading to a search of the home with the help of Kenyan authorities and seizure of the laptop.

The two men were arrested in 2013 in Saudi Arabia and flown directly to the U.S. to face charges.

Update hourly