Prosecutors want to hide two witnesses behind a screen in an upcoming terrorism trial in Boise and allow them to testify using made-up names, the Idaho Statesman reports today. The two FBI informants or their families could face retaliation from backers of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan if they testified openly, prosecutors say, and revealing their identities also could compromise other cases. Statesman reporter John Sowell’s full report is online here.
Boise resident Fazliddin Kurbanov, 32, is accused of plotting to set off bombs at military bases and public areas where large groups of people could be killed, Sowell writes. An Uzbek refugee who came to the United States in 2009, Kurbanov allegedly detailed his plans during a series of conversations with two FBI informants and in written communications with the website administrator for a terrorist group in Central Asia. His defense attorneys haven’t yet filed responses to the witness-secrecy motion.
Federal prosecutors wrote that if U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge doesn’t agree to allow the two witnesses to testify behind a screen, they’d request that the courtroom be closed to the public while the two men testify, with observers allowed to sit in an adjacent courtroom and listen to an audio-only broadcast.
Sowell writes that several previous cases have found that allowing witnesses to testify behind a screen or under pseudonyms to protect their identities didn’t violate the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” In the Kurbanov case, the prosecution’s request is that the screen be placed to keep the two witnesses from being seen by observers sitting in the public section of the courtroom; jurors, prosecutors, defense attorneys, Kurbanov and the judge still would be able to see the witnesses as they testify.