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Eye On Boise

Should they, or shouldn’t they?

Attorneys on both sides offered impassioned arguments to the judge Friday morning on whether two young recruits to the al-Qaeda terrorist network should be allowed to testify against Sami Al-Hussayen, a University of Idaho graduate student who is accused of aiding terrorists, in part by operating web sites. So far, they’ve testified only outside the jury’s presence.

“There is absolutely huge potential for confusion of the issue and for prejudice here,” argued David Nevin, defense attorney for Al-Hussayen. “These witnesses are not alleged to have had access to a single thing that Mr. Al-Hussayen wrote or said or thought. They are not alleged to have had access to a single thing that existed on Mr. Al-Hussayen’s computer and was uploaded to any site. The only connection is by association.”

Prosecutors contend that one web site Al-Hussayen helped operate touted another site, which has been described as the official site of the Chechen rebels, as the most reliable source for news about the Chechen conflict. They also note that the Chechen site, www.qoqaz.com, had links to videos of battle scenes from Bosnia and elsewhere that were posted on www.islamway.com, a site connected to the Islamic Assembly of North America, for which Al-Hussayen helped maintain web sites.

One of the recruits, Yahya Goba of Lackawanna, N.Y., said he watched the battle videos on islamway.com about 10 times after returning from an al-Qaeda training camp. The other, Khwaja Hasan of Virginia, said he watched the graphic movie “Russian Hell 2000” on qoqaz.com sometime in 2000. But both said that while the movies were “inspiring,” respected friends who enticed them with religious arguments were what persuaded them to go train with terrorists. Hasan headed to Pakistan for training just days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with the intention of fighting against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Goba trained at the al-Farooq camp near Kandahar in the spring of 2001, serving guard duty and training in weapons, tactics and explosives.

Lead prosecutor Kim Lindquist argued that the two terrorist recruits prove the points government experts have been making in their testimony – that Islamic web sites like those Al-Hussayen helped operate recruit people and raise funds for terrorism.

The government should be able “to have these witnesses testify directly, vividly and powerfully that that was the effect these materials have,” Lindquist argued. “These witnesses are living, breathing proof.”

The judge will decide on Monday. He suggested that the two witnesses may be more appropriate for the “rebuttal” phase of the trial, after the defense has offered its case. The two are the last major witnesses prosecutors plan to present, so depending on the judge’s ruling, the defense could begin presenting its case on Monday.


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Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.