London (Canada) Free Press : Brits testify in trial of ex-U.S. sailor

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brits testify in trial of ex-U.S. sailor

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN | AP | February 26, 2008

NEW HAVEN, CONN. -- The trial of a former U.S. navy sailor accused of helping suspected terrorists, including leaking information that could have doomed his own ship, opened yesterday with British investigators describing evidence they found.

Hassan Abu-Jihaad, 32, has pleaded not guilty to charges he provided material support to terrorists with intent to kill U.S. citizens and disclosed classified information relating to national defence. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors allege he sent details of the location and vulnerabilities of a navy battle group to suspected terrorism supporters in London. A Canadian warship, HMCS Winnipeg, was in the battle group.

Abu-Jihaad's lawyers say the government's case is weak.

Abu-Jihaad was charged as a result of an investigation that led to the 2004 arrest of Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist accused of running websites to raise money, appeal for fighters and provide equipment such as gas masks and night vision goggles for terrorists. Ahmad is awaiting extradition to the United States.

Three British investigators testified yesterday that agents who searched Ahmad's parents' house, where he had a room, in 2003 found a computer disk.

Computer expert Samantha Miller testified that the disk contained information on U.S. navy ships and planned ship movements.

Information on the disk included statements such as "They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), etc., except their SEALS' stinger missiles."

Prosecutors have said files found on Ahmad's computers contained classified information about the positions of navy ships and discussed their susceptibility to attack.

They also allegedly listed the ships in a navy battle group, which included the Winnipeg, along with the group's planned movements and a drawing of the group's formation when it was to pass through the Straits of Hormuz on April 29, 2001.

Abu-Jihaad, an American-born Muslim convert from Phoenix formerly known as Paul R. Hall, was a navy signalman. He was honourably discharged in 2002.

The investigation that led to his arrest was one of the first to target online terrorism financiers after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and experts have cited Abu-Jihaad's case as an example of how Internet propaganda fuels radicalization.