The LWOT: Norway's anti-terrorism laws tested in conspiracy case

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Norway's anti-terrorism laws tested in conspiracy case

Mikael Davud, Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, and David Jakobsen pleaded not guilty in a Norwegian court on November 15 to charges of "conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack" for their alleged plot to bomb the offices of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 (Deutsche Welle,ReutersAPBBC). The three men were arrested in July 2010 after allegedly purchasing bomb-making materials including acetone and hydrogen peroxide. Davud, the alleged ringleader of the plot, is also accused of training with al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan in 2008 and 2009, after which prosecutors say he kept in contact with the terrorist group and made "an agreement" to bomb the newspaper offices (Reuters). If convicted, the men could face up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors will have to prove there was a "conspiracy" with an international organization, because plotting an attack alone is not punishable under Norway's terror laws (APReuters).

Iran's deputy foreign minister on November 14 denied a claim made by Bahrain's public prosecutor the previous day that Bahraini authorities had apprehended a "terror cell" with links to Iran's Revolutionary Guard (APCNNReutersGuardian). Four of the suspects were arrested in Qatar, and the fifth detained in Bahrain, with an alleged plot to attack government and diplomatic buildings as well as a causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

A woman accused in the United Kingdom of failing to alert authorities to a potential terrorist plot, pleaded not guilty in court on November 16 to accusations that her estranged husband Ashik Ali told her it would be best for her if they did not get back together because he was planning to become a suicide bomber (Tel). Ali is one of eight people arrested in September as part a "major counter-terrorism investigation" known as Operation Pitsford, and indicted on various charges including fundraising for terrorist purposes, travelling to Pakistan for terrorist training, "planning a bombing campaign," and "stating an intention to be a suicide bomber" (AFP).

Friends testify against Mehanna

Hassan Masood, a former friend of Tarek Mehanna, who is accused of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder in a foreign country, testified on November 14 that he drove Mehanna and two other to Logan International Airport in 2004 so they could travel to Yemen to receive training at terrorist camps (Boston Globe). Masood told the U.S. District Court in Boston that Mehanna, who is accused of translating and disseminating jihadist material online, attempting to train at a terrorist camp in Yemen, believed "there was an obligation for Muslims to stand up and fight against the invasion in Iraq."

Jason Pippin, a convert to Islam who travelled to Pakistan for terrorist training in 1996, testified on November 15 that he provided Mehanna's associate Ahmad Abousamra, with contacts in Yemen who could facilitate their aim to seek terrorist training (Boston Globe). Daniel Maldonado, another former friend of Tarek Mehanna, testified on November 17 that Mehanna told him the 9/11 attacks were legitimate and that he was willing to fight U.S. soldiers in Iraq (Boston GlobeAP). Mehanna is also accused of lying to the FBI in 2006 about the location of Maldonado, who is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for training at a terrorist camp in Somalia.

U.S. Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo pleaded not guilty on November 17 to charges that he plotted to detonate two bombs in a restaurant frequented by soldiers from the nearby Fort Hood, TX Army base, and shoot any survivors (AP). Abdo was indicted on three federal charges in August and prosecutors brought six additional charges against him last week; he will be tried first on the newest charges, which carry longer sentences.

The four elderly Georgia men accused of an extremist right-wing bioterrorism plot appeared on November 15 at a hearing, during which their attorney attacked the credibility of the undercover informant who recorded the suspects talking about their radical political views and murdering government officials using the deadly toxin ricin (AP). The informant faces two charges in South Carolina of child pornography and child molestation, but has been released from jail on bond.  The federal judge hearing the bioterrorism case denied bond for the four Georgia men on November 16 out of concern for the safety of government officials and employees (AP). 

Malian citizen Oumar Issa pleaded guilty on November 15 in New York City to conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization for agreeing in 2009 to traffic drugs through the Sahara desert for DEA agents posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to whom Issa said he had provided support to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) through drug trafficking in the past (AP). 

FBI informant use attacked in court

Miriam Conrad, defense attorney for Rezwan Ferdaus, who is accused of plotting to fly remote-controlled aircraft packed with explosives into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol, attacked the FBI's use of a drug-abusing former convict as an informant in its investigation of Ferdaus (NPR). Despite purchasing heroin, an act videotaped by the FBI, the informant was not reported, and was briefly terminated before being reinstated in the investigation. Conrad argues that Ferdaus' plot was akin to a video game fantasy, and that without the informant and two undercover FBI agents - the only people in his "terror cell" - Ferdaus "would not have done anything" (ReutersLocal).

Politico's Josh Gerstein reported on November 15 that a judge ruled last week against the Muslim Advocates group's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that seeks access to the FBI's Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, which lays out the rules governing permissible tactics in FBI investigations, including surveillance, which has become a flashpoint issue in the government's legal war on terror (Politico). And the Guardian's Paul Harris reports on the growing concerns in the United States over potential entrapment by the FBI in terrorism investigations (Guardian). 

Senators compromise on detainee provisions

The Senate Armed Services Committee on November 15 approved the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, including a controversial provision that would require military custody of all terrorism suspects affiliated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban, which has held up the bill for months and drew veto threats from the White House (CNNPost,WSJPoliticoLawfare). The bill was altered from a previous version the committee approved in June that was blocked from a general Senate vote by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the committee in a letter that the new version still does not address all of the Obama administration's concerns. 

And the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force General Robert Kehler, said on November 16 that the United States military has developed a legal framework to govern offensive operations in cyberspace in an "area of hostilities" or battle zone (Reuters). The Pentagon is still working out the rules of engagement in cyberspace outside of official war zones.

Trials and Tribulations

  • Lawyers for 11 of 12 men accused of involvement in the July 2010 bombings in Kampala, Uganda that killed at least 76 people requested the suspension of their clients' trial because the men were purportedly tortured and illegally extradited from Kenya and Tanzania (AFP).
  • Seven people in Indonesia, including the head of an Islamic boarding school and a teenaged student, may soon face terrorism charges for illegal possession of weapons and an as yet unclear bomb plot (Jakarta Globe). The school was the site of an explosion in July that killed one teacher believed to be in the process of assembling a bomb.
  • The Netherlands Supreme Court on November 15 reduced the sentence of Nouriddin el-Fahtni, who was convicted of recruiting and indoctrinating Muslims to join his terrorist group, from eight years to seven years and four months (AP).



The LWOT: Neo-Nazi terror cell shocks Germany

Foreign Policy and the New America Foundation bring you a twice weekly brief on the legal war on terror. You can read it on or get it delivered directly to your inbox -- just sign up here.

Neo-Nazi terror cell shocks Germany

German authorities on November 13 formally charged Beate Zschaepe with co-founding and belonging to a neo-Nazi terrorist organization believed to be responsible for ten murders between 2000 and 2007 (Deutsche WelleDer Spiegel, CNN, Tel, Bloomberg, LAT). Two other members of the group calling itself the Nationalist Socialist Underground appeared to have committed suicide in a caravan on November 4, four days before Zschaepe turned herself into police. Authorities discovered a DVD in the caravan showing the two alleged members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boenhardt, admitting to the murders of eight people of Turkish origin, one Greek, and policewoman, as well as setting off a nail bomb in 2004 that injured several Turkish immigrants (Deutsche Welle, Tel, AP). A fourth suspect, identified as Holger G., was also arrested and remanded into custody on November 13.

German Prime Minister Angela Merkel called the murders "shameful for Germany," and the country's Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said it was "deeply troubling that there was no connection made between the murder series across Germany and the far-right scene in Thuringia," the state in which the group was allegedly based (AFP, Deutsche Welle, Reuters, Der Spiegel). German intelligence officials have come under fire for failing to prevent the murders, despite being aware of the suspects' affiliation with right-wing extremism since the 1990s and arresting Zschaepe, Mundlos and Boenhardt in connection with the planting of a swastika-emblazoned fake bomb at a theater in 1997 (Der Spiegel).

Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to killing 77 people on July 22 in a bombing in Oslo, Norway and a shooting spree on the island of Utoya, appeared on November 13 at his first open court hearing in front of the victims' families, survivors, journalists, and members of the general public (AP, Tel, Deutsche Welle, BBC, AFP). As in previous hearings, Breivik told the court, "I acknowledge the facts, but I do not plead guilty," and said that he is "a military commander in a resistance movement," before being denied his request to speak directly to families of the attack victims.

District Court Judge Torkjel Nesheim remanded Breivik back into custody to await a trial scheduled to begin on April 16, 2012, pending his psychiatric evaluation, from which Judge Nesheim said he expects to see clean results (CNN). The Post reports that a new courtroom capable of accommodating 700 people will be built especially for this trial for the many survivors and family members of victims who wish to attend (Post).

Texas man convicted on terrorism charges

Barry Walter Bujol Jr. was convicted on November 13 of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and aggravated identity theft, after being accused of trying to leave the United States with restricted military documents, money and equipment destined for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) (AP). Bujol was apprehended when he tried to sneak into a Houston port to board a ship, carrying restricted U.S. Army manuals and GPS receivers given to him by an FBI informant posing as a member of AQAP.  

Reuters on November 13 reported on the complex legal and political issues that draw out the still largely untested military tribunals of suspected terrorists held at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility (Reuters). And despite President Barack Obama's insistence that he will close Guantánamo, and the steady drop in the detainee population, construction continues on the aging and now almost empty prison (AFP).

In the wake of a series of Associated Press reports that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has been monitoring Muslim communities for terrorist connections, some Muslim community leaders in New York City are reportedly encouraging Muslims not to go directly to authorities with any terrorism-related concerns (AP). The leaders have also instructed others in the community on how to identify police informants, and one law professor at City University of New York called most police interactions with Muslims "a fishing expedition," moves that could further damage relations between law enforcement and the Muslim community.

British police arrest four suspected terrorists

Four men were arrested in Birmingham today on suspicion of raising money for terrorist purposes and travelling to Pakistan for terrorist training, as part of a major counterterrorism investigation in which eight people have already been detained and charged (Tel, BBC, AFP).

A man convicted in London in 2007 of conspiracy to murder for his involvement in an alleged bomb plot against targets in the United States, Qaisar Shaffi, has told his lawyer that he accompanied a fellow convicted terrorist, Dhiren Barot, to New York in 2001 only because it was a free vacation, not because he wanted to survey possible attack targets (Tel). Shaffi's lawyer also said his client "took recreational drugs and drank alcohol and his life revolved around clothes, music and partying" - quite the opposite of extremist Islamic practices - and that he is working to have Shaffi's security rating lowered so that he may be released on parole next year.

Finally, Juan Mendez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture has said the U.K.'s inquiry into alleged torture of suspected terrorist detainees must be "fully public," or it will "only serve to cover up abuses" (BBC, Guardian). Prime Minister David Cameron announced the inquiry last July, but it has not yet begun. 

Trials and Tribulations

  • Prosecutors at the U.N.-mandated Special Tribunal for Lebanon told judges on November 11 that it was too early to consider a trial in absentia for four members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah charged with assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (AP).
  • Two men convicted in Australia's first terrorism case 2008 for belonging to a homegrown Islamic extremist terror cell were released in Melbourne on parole on November 6, though police fear that they have not renounced their radical, violent views (Herald Sun).
  • Indonesian counterterrorism police forces on November 13 captured three suspected terrorists, who may be linked to the April 2011 Cirebon Police mosque bombing case for which eight suspects are already on trial (Jakarta Post).

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