Closing arguments Mon. in Fort Dix trial

December 14, 2008 4:48:47 PM PST
They watched jihadist videos, listed to incendiary Islamist speeches, bought guns and practiced using them, and got a map of the Army's Fort Dix. And they were secretly recorded by FBI informants as they talked about bringing a holy war to America.

But were the five men who spent years in the comfortable Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill really planning a homegrown terrorist attack on U.S. soil? Or were the foreign-born Muslims just jihad sympathizers who talked tough but had no real intention of killing anyone?

After 26 days of testimony, jurors are to hear final arguments beginning Monday in the case against five men accused of planning to kill soldiers at Fort Dix.

Deliberations are set to start Tuesday.

While the government claims that the men considered Fort Dix a target, proving that is not necessary to convicting them.

Prosecutors must only convince the jurors that the men had an agreement to kill soldiers; they don't necessarily have to prove that the men had a specific plan, timeline or any specific target to win a conviction.

Although no attack was carried out, the defendants are charged with conspiracy to kill military personnel and attempted murder; four of them face weapons offenses. They all face life in prison if convicted on the most serious charges.

Jordan-born Mohamad Shnewer was a cab driver; Turkey-born Serdar Tatar was a convenience store clerk; and ethnic Albanian brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka from the former Yugoslavia had a roofing business.

A sixth man, Agron Abdullahu, was charged only with gun offenses and later pleaded guilty.

The men were in their 20s when they were arrested in May 2007, more than a year after the FBI's investigation case began.

It started with a tip from a Circuit City store clerk in southern New Jersey who told authorities about some customers who wanted a video transferred to DVD. The clerk was suspicious because the video showed the men shooting guns and yelling "Allah akbar," Arabic for "God is great."

Two paid FBI informants infiltrated the group and secretly recorded hours of conversations with the men.

The government relied heavily on the informants - both of whom entered the country illegally and have criminal convictions - to build their case again the group.

They also presented dozens of jihadist videos and speeches that the men watched and listened to, and played hours of recordings made by the informants.

Defense attorneys chiefly made their case by tearing apart the government's. Of the 26 days of testimony, defense attorneys used 11 on cross-examination.

Their lawyers acknowledged that the men were was interested in guns and at times spoke ill of America, but said that they were not seriously planning anything.

They argued that it was the informants who tried to push their clients toward a plot.

Defense attorneys called only two witnesses - a computer forensics consultant, and a computer scientist who testified that it can't be determined from computer records whether one of the suspects zoomed in on an Internet map of the Army post in September 2006.

None of the five defendants testified.

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