Anders Behring Breivik on trial in Norway
The trial of Anders Behring Breivik began in Oslo on April 16 with the defendant pleading not guilty to criminal charges, but freely admitting the murder of 77 people last July in a bomb attack in the Norwegian capital and in a shooting spree on the island of Utoya, where a liberal political youth camp was taking place (NYT, Tel, CNN, BBC). Breivik said he acted in self-defense, and rejected the court's authority because it was empowered by "political parties which support multiculturalism." Breivik also said he had been planning the attacks for years, and had wanted to capture former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was speaking at the camp, and film himself beheading her (NYT, Guardian, Tel, AP, CNN).
Breivik, has repeatedly defended his actions as "cruel but necessary" measures to punish those allowing immigrants to "Islamize" Europe, and said he regretted not killing more people (NYT, Tel, BBC). Scoffing at Norway's 21-year maximum prison sentence, Breivik told the court on April 18 that the only "legitimate outcomes" of the case are acquittal or death (AFP, AP, BBC, Guardian). And he told prosecutors on the same day that along with a Serb war criminal he founded a right-wing extremist group in 2002 called the Knights Templar that now has members across Europe, though investigators doubt the existence of both the organization and the Serb (NYT, Tel).
Despite his opposition to what he sees as the increasing multiculturalism of Europe, Breivik said on April 20 that to prepare for his bomb-and-shooting rampage he studied attacks by al-Qaeda, which he calls "the most successful revolutionary movement in the world," as well as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (AP, CNN, WSJ). He told the court he had subjected himself to a "dehumanization" program in 2006 in preparation for the attacks, and honed his shooting skills by playing video game "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" (BBC, AP, Reuters, AFP).
Abu Qatada rearrested in United Kingdom
British authorities on April 17 rearrested Palestinian-Jordanian Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, who was released from prison in February when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that he could not be deported to Jordan on terrorism charges (NYT). Home Secretary Theresa May told British legislators the same day that the United Kingdom has received pledges from Jordan that should address the European court's concerns, and clear the way for Abu Qatada's deportation (AP).
And on April 19, authorities in London arrested three men as they arrived at Heathrow International Airport from Oman, on suspicion of "possessing articles and documents with intent to use them for terrorist purposes overseas" (NYT, Guardian, Tel, BBC).
A court in Kazakhstan on April 19 sentenced 47 people to up to 15 years in prison on terrorism-related charges (AP). And a court in neighboring Tajikistan on the same day convicted and sentenced 34 people to prison terms of eight to 28 years on charges that they had links to the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (AP).
Five Danish men were charged with attempted acts of terrorism for allegedly trying to burn down police stations, a bank, and an embassy in the capital city of Copenhagen in 2010 and 2011 (AP). The suspects' names have not been released and it is unclear what they intend to plea.
Alleged NYC subway bomb plot accomplice on trial
The trial of Adis Medunjanin, the alleged accomplice of Zarein Ahmedzay and Najibullah Zazi in a plot to bomb the New York City subway, began on April 16 with Ahmedzay testifying that the three men drove around New York City in early 2009, casing potential targets including Grand Central Station and the New York Stock Exchange (AP, AFP). Terrorism experts and human rights advocates are watching the case closely, as the rare open trial provides them an in-depth look at the United States' prosecution of homegrown terrorists (NYT).
On April 18, Zazi testified that the men's al-Qaeda trainers in Pakistan had taught them a "very simple" method of making explosives for suicide vests out of everyday chemicals found in substances like nail polish remover (AP). And on April 19, Saajid Badat, who has been convicted in Britain in for plotting with Richard Reid to blow up a passenger plane in the December 2001 shoe-bomb attempt, testified for the prosecution via video deposition about the leadership and training methods of al-Qaeda (AP).
The AP's Malin Rising reported on April 19 that officers at a prison in the United Arab Emirates purportedly tortured U.S. Muslim Yonas Fikre at the FBI's request, while interrogating him about his Portland, Oregon mosque and imam during his 106-day detention there (AP). Fikre says he travelled to the UAE on a business trip in 2011, and was detained there by non-uniformed policemen, who asked him for the same information about his religious community that FBI agents had requested from him two years earlier, and that he had declined to give.
Seven prominent journalists and civil rights activists have filed suit against Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and other top U.S. officials over the recently approved National Defense Authorization Act, which the plaintiffs claim puts them at higher risk of arrest, and allows the indefinite detention of American citizens on U.S. soil (LAT).
The Post's Spencer Hsu, Jennifer Jenkins, and Ted Mellnik published a must-read on April 17 about the highly secretive, nine-year Department of Justice review of FBI forensic documents, undertaken after an FBI forensic scientist testified in 1995 that he was pressured by his superiors to leave out findings that did not support the prosecutors' theory of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings (Post). The DoJ never released any of its findings, and did not notify any convicted defendants of forensic errors in their cases.
Al-Nashiri attorney said military tribunal unconstitutional
Defense attorneys for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is on trial at Guantánamo Bay for allegedly masterminding the 2000 USS Cole bombing, argued on April 18 that the military tribunal is unconstitutional because it applies only to non-U.S. citizens, discriminating against people "simply by the accident of where they were born" (Reuters). The transfer of the last remaining Western detainee at Guantánamo, Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, is now up to the authorities in his home nation, and both U.S. and Canadian officials say this move is likely to happen sometime soon.
Pentagon officials said on April 19 that two Chinese Muslim Uighurs have been transferred from Guantánamo Bay to El Salvador, becoming the first prisoners to be released from the prison in over a year, and bringing the number of detainees remaining there to 169 (Reuters, AP, WSJ). Chinese authorities had requested the men be transferred to Chinese custody, but the United States refused on the grounds that they would be persecuted in China.