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News >  Idaho

Prosecution rests in Al-Hussayen trial

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE — Prosecutors wrapped up their case against Sami Al-Hussayen on Monday with chilling testimony from a Virginia man who talked casually about deciding to head to Pakistan for military training to fight against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

“I felt that it was something a mujahed should do, that he should train himself, prepare himself for jihad,” Khwaja Hasan told a Boise courtroom as jurors looked on uncomfortably.

Hasan’s testimony was the last in more than six weeks of the prosecution’s case, which stretched twice as long as anticipated. Today, the defense will begin presenting its case. Al-Hussayen faces charges of providing material support to terrorists, in part by operating and maintaining Islamic Web sites.

Hasan, 28, told the court he never had considered taking up arms before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “I shot once a gun, that’s it,” the Pakistani native said.

But then, on that very date, he said he was urged by a Muslim cleric he respected to head overseas to fight against the Americans.

Lead defense attorney David Nevin asked Hasan what role his meeting with the cleric, Sheik Ali Al-Timimi, after Sept. 11 played in that decision. Hasan said, “What happened in September, the meeting, was the final part of me deciding to go to Afghanistan.”

“It was your relationship with the cleric, your personal relationship with a very, very persuasive man, yes?” Nevin asked.

“I would say that, yes,” Hasan replied.

Hasan also acknowledged his testimony could win him time off his 11-year, three-month prison sentence for conspiracy against the United States and discharging a firearm in connection with that conspiracy.

“You hope to have a reduction in your sentence, right?” Nevin asked.

“Sure,” Hasan responded.

Hasan said that after going through weapons and tactics training at the camp for about a month, he decided not to fight after all and instead headed back home to Fairfax, Va. His reasons included news reports that the United States was quickly winning the war against the Taliban and news that an earlier call from Taliban leader Mullah Omar for all Muslims to come fight had been altered to a call for food donations.

After he returned to the United States, Hasan earned a master’s degree in business technology. When FBI agents met with him at a Borders bookstore for an interview in the summer of 2002, he denied having gone to the training camp and said he went to Pakistan for a wedding.

“I was freaked, see, the police, you know?” Hassan said. “I’d never been in trouble before.”

Hasan’s plea agreement requires him to testify in various cases such as Al-Hussayen’s.

Al-Hussayen, 34, is charged with providing material support to terrorists by funneling money to and operating Web sites for the Islamic Assembly of North America, a religious outreach group. He also faces visa fraud charges for engaging in those same activities while in the United States on a student visa.

Attorneys on both sides have agreed that Al-Hussayen had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.

Today, the defense will begin presenting its case, which is expected to include testimony from people who knew Al-Hussayen in Moscow, Idaho, where he was a prominent member of the Muslim and University of Idaho communities and former president of the Muslim Students Association.

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