Defendants say shoe bomb plotter has motive to lie
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (AP) — Two British citizens who pleaded guilty in Connecticut to supporting terrorists say a witness against them has an incentive to lie because he’s benefiting from cooperation with authorities.
The witness is expected to testify during sentencing that one of the men, Babar Ahmad, sent him to Afghanistan to train for violent jihad and that he moved on from Ahmad and was trained by al-Qaida members for a failed 2001 plot to bring down an airplane with a shoe bomb, according to prosecutors.
They say the man fears arrest in the United States and want him to testify from Britain by a videotaped deposition. They also say false testimony would violate his cooperation agreement.
Prosecutors didn’t name the man they want to testify, but his description matches that of Saajid Badat, a British citizen whose videotaped testimony was shown at the 2012 trial of a man convicted in a foiled 2009 plot to attack the New York City subway system.
Ahmad and his co-defendant, Syed Talha Ahsan, say the witness should testify in person or the government should bring them to the deposition.
“Of all the possible witnesses from whom the government could seek to elicit testimony, the witness has perhaps the greatest incentive to lie and the greatest need for effective confrontation,” the attorneys wrote in court papers Monday, saying he served less than seven years in prison and has not been extradited to face charges in the United States. “The benefits he is receiving for his cooperation are vast.”
The man also is expected to testify that he saw nearly two dozen others Ahmad sent from the United Kingdom to train in Afghanistan, and that he would describe camping trips and training exercises that Ahmad organized in England to groom recruits for violent jihad abroad, prosecutors said.
The testimony reflects an effort by prosecutors to show that Ahmad had an active role in sending recruits to terrorism training camps beyond appealing for support on the websites. But attorneys for the men say the witness’ testimony goes beyond the charges against them.
Ahmad and Ahsan pleaded guilty in December to supporting terrorists in Afghanistan through websites that sought to raise cash, recruit fighters and solicit items such as gas masks.
The two men, who were living in Britain at the time, faced charges in Connecticut because authorities said they used an Internet service provider in the state to run one of the websites.
Ahmad faces up to 25 years in prison and Ahsan faces up to 15 when they are sentenced in July.
Badat was himself convicted in London in a plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes. He has said that he refused a request to testify in person in the U.S. because he remains under indictment in Boston on charges he conspired with failed shoe bomber Richard Reid and has been told he’d be arrested if he set foot in the United States.
Reid was caught aboard a plane with explosives; Badat backed out.
Badat was sentenced to 13 years in prison. But British authorities later said that in 2009, a judge secretly reduced his sentence to 11 years to reward him for his cooperation in terrorism investigations.