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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Not a good start

The defense's case got off to a rough start this morning, as an angry Judge Edward Lodge refused to allow the first witness to testify and blocked key defense exhibits - evidence that after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks Sami Al-Hussayen organized a blood drive for the victims, condemned the attacks and spoke out strongly against them on behalf of Moscow, Idaho's Muslim community.

"Statements made by him are hearsay - he is available as a witness," Lodge said. "It is his choice whether he chooses to testify or not."

Angry prosecutors had demanded the move, still seething over yesterday's cross-examination of one of their star witnesses, a terrorist recruit who had testified that viewing web sites and videos prompted him, in part, to take up arms. On cross-examination, the recruit, Khaja Hasan, acknowledged that the Sept. 11 attacks and a trusted cleric's urging were what really prompted him to turn to violence. Both sides had agreed before the trial to stay away from mentioning Sept. 11 and Osama bin Laden, because both say Al-Hussayen had nothing to do with those attacks.

The judge also blocked Al-Hussayen's doctoral adviser, retired University of Idaho professor John Dickinson, from testifying until the defense submits an expert witness report to the prosecutors. The judge expressed anger about complaints from both sides throughout the trial about notice and paperwork.

"It just seems like this whole trial has been proceeding that way - keep the court in the dark, see if the court makes a mistake, and then take advantage of it," the judge fumed.

Eye On Boise

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