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Eye On Boise

Surprise ruling

There was a surprise ruling in the Al-Hussayen trial this morning – Judge Edward Lodge ruled that the prosecution can’t introduce into evidence thousands of emails posted to a Yahoo email group but not linked directly to Sami Al-Hussayen, and also ruled that four fatwas, or religious treatises, about the religious justification for suicide attacks can’t be admitted as evidence until the prosecution has demonstrated exactly how they’re linked to Al-Hussayen. Both sides said last week that the four fatwas form the heart of the case against Al-Hussayen.

The rulings prompted a halt in the trial for the day, before the jury had heard a word of testimony. It’ll start again tomorrow, after prosecutors have reordered their witnesses to match the new ruling. That means anti-terrorism author and activist Rita Katz, who had been scheduled to testify all day today, can’t do so – possibly until much later in the trial.

The judge said the suicide fatwas, which defense lawyers say don’t represent Al-Hussayen’s views, are “highly prejudicial and would cause the jury to speculate.”

If they were later found not to be adequately connected to the defendant, their shocking content still could never be erased from the jurors’ minds, he said.

And as for the email group postings, Lodge said even if Al-Hussayen was designated as one of an undetermined number of “moderators” on the Yahoo email group about Chechnya, that doesn’t prove he ever read the postings. There must be proof that he posted the items, or took some action on them as a moderator, Lodge said.

“If it’s just that he had the title moderator, that isn’t going to fly,” the judge declared.

Eye On Boise

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