IHT : Defense attorney says FBI informant manipulated meetings with 3 charged in US terrorism plot

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Defense attorney says FBI informant manipulated meetings with 3 charged in US terrorism plot

The Associated Press | June 10, 2008

TOLEDO, Ohio: Three men accused of plotting to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq never would have met if it were not for an FBI informant who lied to create the illusion of a conspiracy, an attorney for one of the defendants said Tuesday during closing arguments in the men's trial.

The informant, former U.S. Army soldier Darren Griffin, initiated conversations about training for a holy war and arranged meetings between the defendants, attorney Stephen Hartman told jurors.

"He admitted he brought these men together," Hartman said. "It was his idea."

Griffin was the key witness against the three -- Mohammad Amawi, Marwan El-Hindi and Wassim Mazloum —-- who have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to kill or maim people outside the United States. They face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

Jurors on Wednesday will begin deciding the case that began on April 1.

Griffin testified that he won the trust of the men by posing as a disgruntled soldier who converted to Islam. He secretly recorded his conversations with them for about two years until they were arrested in 2006.

At one point, Griffin told an FBI agent that he would meet with the men and "get them together to train," according to a transcript of the conversation.

Hartman said it was clear that Griffin manipulated the defendants and pointed out that investigators arrested them even though they found no guns, explosives or targets.

"He admitted he was fishing. Is that how we do things here now?" said Hartman, who represents El-Hindi. "This case is remarkable for what's not there."

The trial, he said, says a lot about how the government treats Muslims in America since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

All three defendants are Muslim and have ties to the Middle East. All are U.S. citizens except Mazloum, who came to the U.S. legally from Lebanon. El-Hindi was born in Jordan. Amawi was born in the United States but also has Jordanian citizenship.

Justice Department attorney Gregg Sofer scoffed at the notion that Griffin orchestrated the investigation and coerced the defendants. "Darren Griffin isn't that bright," Sofer said Tuesday.

Prosecutors said last week that the three men had been actively planning to recruit and train terrorists while also learning to shoot guns and make bombs. It should not matter that they did not carry out any attacks, Sofer said.

Sofer said the fact that the men watched bomb making videos, expressed support for suicide bombers and talked about learning to shoot guns showed what they had planned.

Hartman countered that the government is trying to scare the jurors.

"They want you to be afraid," he said. "They figure the more you are afraid, the more you'll believe this charade."