Tarek walked into the courthouse today in high spirits. For the duration of the trial thus far, the court marshals, who normally lead him into the court room shackled, have let him walk in free. He gets to wave his arm high to his family and supporters, smiling and giving the room his salaams. He gets to wear his own suit with his own cologne. For these few hours in court, Tarek is closer to being a free man than he has been in over two years. He is actively participating in his defense—jotting down notes, passing notes to his defense team, and extensively meeting with the team to strategize.
Before court got underway today, Tarek’s lawyer Jay Carney objected to the prosecution showing the jury 800 documents, photos and videos that they were intending to show. Carney argued that the purpose of these documents was to establish Tarek’s frame of mind, which Carney himself already established in the opening statements: Tarek wanted the US occupying forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Carney argued that the government is suggesting that there’s something wrong or illegal with possessing, reading, or watching these documents, when there isn’t. Judge O’Toole ruled that the fact that these documents were found on Tarek’s computer makes them relevant, and that the defense can present their case of where these photos came from in cross examination and when it’s their turn to call witnesses.
The prosecution continued it’s second day of calling witnesses. These witnesses have all been FBI computer forensics experts who are mostly testifying about documents found on computers, cds and dvds from Tarek’s parents house. These witnesses are expected to continue tomorrow as well. The prosecution has been trying to show what they call a “nexus to terrorism,” in other words, they have been trying to establish a foundation for this whole case on evidence that Tarek was participating in illegal activities that the government calls terrorism. It is important to note that none of the items found on any of the media in the house are illegal to possess, watch, or read, yet the computer forensics testimony keeps rolling in. Much of the testimony has been repetitive, tedious, dense computer language that has to be explained in plain language in order to be understood by laypeople like ourselves and the jury. To our advantage, the prosecution has not been doing much to explain this information in plain language or explain why it relates to their case against Tarek. Thankfully, the defense’s cross examination has been doing that.
Sajel Patel and Janice Bassil, using educational tools such as visual examples and analogies, have helped the jury understand the esoteric language of the government’s witnesses while at the same time demonstrating with their questions that there is indeed reasonable doubt in the foundation the government has been trying to set up. The cross examinations have been poking holes in the government’s case left and right—for example, Ms. Patel asked how even a computer forensics person could know who downloaded, viewed, saved, interacted with, or deleted a document, picture or video. The expert conceded that it could be anyone—Tarek, his father, his mother, his brother, a friend, or even someone who hacked into his computer. The defense has been asking a lot about caching, a process in which computers automatically save images from a website you might have visited, without your knowledge that it’s being saved. This means that any of the pictures the government is going to show the jury could have been cached onto his computer from websites like cnn.com without Tarek’s knowledge.
Today we also learned that, while the government have been holding Tarek in solitary confinement for 2 years, pretending all this time that they have terrible evidence against him, they only started investigating and analyzing posts from the online forum they’re accusing Tarek of conspiring through beginning in August of 2011. This makes it even more clear to us that the government has no case and is making all of this up as they go along.
Please join us in court! We will be there 9am-1pm, Monday through Friday at Moakley Courthouse in Boston.