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Day 19: Maldonado Cross-Examination (Part 2 of 2), Beginning of Daniel Spaulding Direct-Examination

**Note: Thursday and Friday of this week there will be no court!**

Janice Bassil Continuation of Cross-Examination of Daniel Maldonado

Today Janice Bassil (JB) continued her cross examination of Daniel Maldonado (DM). She asked him about the first time he met Tarek, and how they watched a video at Tarek’s house that might not have been his, though it was at his house. DM testified that Tarek talked far less about violence and more about strengthening his faith. JB pointed to a lot of differences between Ahmed Abousamra (AA) and Tarek, including that Tarek felt that “suicide bombings” were only permissible against military targets in the context of jihad (self-defense). Tarek did not believe the 2005 London subway bombings were justified because they targeted civilians. JB described Abdullah Azzam’s book, how he was not arguing to invade the west, how he died in 1989 before the creation of Al-Qaeda, the reasons he listed for people to be exempt from jihad, and how he wrote very little about “suicide bombings,” mostly about jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets.

Making takfir
JB questioned DM about his friendship with Abu Layth, who was calling people apostates and making takfir. JB wrote this phrase, making takfir, for the jury to see [she is often employing teaching techniques such as this to keep people interested and make clear points] while she had DM explain that making takfir is calling someone a disbeliever in a confrontational way. DM testified that Tarek said Abu Layth was “going overboard on this business of making takfir.” JB explained the idea of apostates that became well known with the 8th century Mongols, who were Muslims by name but not by heart. It was therefore acceptable to fight against them, because they were not actual Muslims. DM testified that AA was quick to make takfir and that this upset Tarek. DM testified that Tarek was concerned of AA’s views. “You sensed Tarek was more interested in bringing people to Islam?” JB asked. “Yes,” DM responded.

JB then questioned DM’s job at the Islamic Network website. It didn’t pay enough money to support his family, so DM wanted to move to Egypt. DM explained the concept of hijra, or migration, to the jury, that the Quran tells Muslims to live in a Muslim country whenever possible. DM wanted to improve his Arabic, raise his kids in a Muslim setting and have them learn Arabic. DM moved to Egypt in November of 2005. JB asked if DM knew the FBI had someone watching him in Egypt, and DM responded, “Not to my knowledge.”

Tarek had family in Egypt. The last time Tarek and DM saw each other (before the trial) was August of 2006 in Egypt. They met in a huge bookstore and Tarek bought books. DM saw Tarek 4 or 5 times that trip. Tarek was close to DM’s wife and kids, so it was a joyous reunion. The second time DM and Tarek met up, they went out to eat and went to bookstores. The third time they met up, they went to a coffee shop. DM testified that he thought Tarek had changed significantly, that he was occupied with obtaining books regarding Islamic scholars.

While in Egypt, DM introduced Tarek to Omar Hamami. That meeting was the first time DM talked to Tarek about his interest in going to Somalia. Tarek discouraged DM and told him to think about the safety and wellness of his family. DM brushed him off, saying “Oh, we’re just thinking about it.” He testified that he backed off in the conversation, but not in his intention.

JB addressed the email that DM had written Tarek, that Abdullah Ali had instructed him to write. When DM told Tarek to take things out of his closet, he didn’t mean literally; he meant that Abdulla Ali felt that Tarek’s translations and internet postings drew attention to him.

JB then explained, through DM’s testimony, that Somalia was without a top-down government since 1991, and that the warlords, supported by the US, had been ravaging the country. The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) was a grassroots organization of courts trying to become the official government run by Islamic law. The ICU was never designated as a “terrorist organization.” JB showed the jury a picture of the leader of the ICU at the time, now the president of Somalia, shaking hands with Hilary Clinton; DM acknowledged that Al-Qaeda was opposed to him.

When DM went to Somalia, there were no westerners, and no American troops, only the warlords, ICU and the transitional federal government. Jihad in Somalia was helping establish the ICU as the government.

In DM’s personal account that he wrote in a detention center in Houston, DM wrote that he never went to Somalia to fight; that he wouldn’t have taken his wife and three small children to such a volatile situation. “The situation just erupted,” he wrote. DM received training from Al Shabab (translated literally to “the youth”); Al Shabab was the military wing of ICU that has since split off and was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US in 2008.

Calls from Somalia
The first was December 12th, 2006 while DM was in the process of receiving military training, which consisted of physical exercise and assembling and disassembling guns. DM testified that he never told Tarek that he saw people making bombs, and that he never even hinted at the presence of Al-Qaeda. He said “culinary school” as a code he made up on the spot for military training. When DM talked about “pb&j,” it was jihad but not specifically with Al-Qaeda. When DM talked to Tarek, he told Tarek to come and bring others, and Tarek gave DM excuses. Tarek wanted to know about marriage, buying books; he said his parents wouldn’t be happy about it. In the second call, Tarek again made excuses, sighed a lot and was fumbling his words. There was a fair amount of hesitation on his part, and DM admitted that he was disappointed in his reaction because he could tell he wasn’t serious, wasn’t “amped up.” In the third call, DM was again pushing him to come, and Tarek changed the subject, wanting to talk about the email DM sent him. DM wasn’t only disappointed, he was quite disgusted. He testified that he wanted Tarek to come because he thought they had the same beliefs.

DM’s beliefs

DM testified that he believed then and still believes now that jihad is acceptable when it is for the purpose of defense. JB asked if he said that US has created terrorism “I don’t see a difference if a terrorist kills innocent people or if a government kills innocent people. All is wrong. Innocent people is innocent people.”

DM & Tarek’s spiritual life

DM gave Tarek his copy of In Defense of Islam, a book that came out against Al-Qaeda. Most of what the two friends talked about together was spiritual matters. They went to the Al-Maghrib conference, where 200-300 brothers discussed their belief systems, not politics. Tarek and DM used to study in DM’s son’s bedroom or the living room (Tarek remained close to DM’s family after DM’s detainment, and would visit and send pictures of DM’s family to him). The heart of the relationship between Tarek and DM was based in studying and beliefs. When DM called Tarek from Somalia, he thought Tarek would jump at the chance to go, but he didn’t. DM learned that AA went to Iraq, and again, Tarek didn’t go.

JB finished her cross examination by mentioning that DM was hoping to get a face-to-face visit with his kids, to kiss and hug them and hold them on his lap. “This is what you live for now?” “Yes.”

Jeffrey Groharing redirect of DM
JG asked DM about how many agents interviewed him, pointing out that they came from lots of places in different districts. Agents started asking about Tarek only after DM’s plea deal once DM was talking to Boston agents. JG also said that in the grand jury DM talked about what he understood Tarek’s purpose in traveling to Yemen was. Tarek was surprised at a sermon he heard in Yemen.  Tarek provided justification for 9/11 and “suicide bombings,” that if the benefit was greater than the harm it was ok. According to DM, Tarek said that the 2005 London subway bombings were not ok because it targeted civilians, but that a military target would be ok.
DM testified that he didn’t understand the concept of conspiracy, and that that’s why he was saying that he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He thought he was innocent because he hadn’t done anything. JG asked about the closet that was DM referred to in his email, and DM explained that it was anything “unsavory,” anything that could be considered possibly criminal or cause trouble. Once again, DM testified that, from his knowledge, Tarek’s trip to Yemen was to connect and get some sort of jihad training; that Tarek said he had made no headway to fight or train, and possibly to go to Iraq. DM said that someone told them to go home and call people to Islam [These answers sound so formulaic and processed…it’s clear that the government has “prepped” him, as you’ll see by comparison with the next informant who testified today].
JG then asked DM, “Have I ever indicated that I wanted you to testify in a particular manner?” [His use of “I” instead of “we” in this case is very interesting; it leaves room for DM to answer in the negative for JG, when perhaps another prosecutor to have “indicated” DM should testify in a certain manner. This wording also may be an attempt on JG’s part to separate himself from Auerhahn’s reputation of criminal misconduct, since it seems JG has his own closet to clean out]

JB Re-Cross of Daniel Maldonado
By the time of the grand jury DM had met with the prosecutors and the FBI agents at least twice in lengthy interviews. DM sat down and talked with them before the grand jury about what he was going to say. In the grand jury, however, DM never said anything about Tarek looking to connect with people training, or going to Iraq, or fighting. DM only testified about AA going to Syria then Iraq. JB asked about Tarek’s views on 9/11 from earlier in the decade; she pointed out that DM’s views had changed, implying that Tarek’s views can change as well.

JG asked the judge for a chance at redirect questioning, and the judge, in a fashion we haven’t seen yet this trial, replied, “No, I think we’ve had enough.”

Chakravarty Direct Examination of Christian Fierabend
Aloke Chakravarty (AC) had Christian Fierabend (CF, testified previously, recalled) read various chats that Tarek had his with his friends. There were many links sent back and forth, and the judge once again allowed the jury to see these videos that Tarek didn’t translate, didn’t edit, and didn’t produce. The parts of the chats that they read were short, didn’t flow together or have any narrative value or connection. Each chat was so short they wouldn’t be worth enumerating or detailing here. Reading the chats was meant to be inflammatory; at one point Jay Carney (JC) insisted that they read on past where AC and CF stopped, and AC resisted. They approached the bench to discuss it, and when they came back, AC and CF read a few lines farther, where Tarek and his friend were talking about the good that the mujahideen had done in Afghanistan, like build hospitals. It was clear why AC only read parts of chats. Many of the chats were clearly jokes, with “haha” after words like “Recruit, brainwash.” After one chat where Tarek talked about Azzam Publications being out of business, and where he implied that he had a copy of one of their dvds he could loan his friend, AC showed an indictment that explained what Azzam Publications allegedly was: a group dedicated to spreading jihadi propaganda and raising money for the mujahideen. Carney asked the judge to instruct the jury that this was only an allegation and shouldn’t be taken as fact.

Carney Cross-Examination of Christian Fierabend
JC explained that the government has in its possession thousands of chats, and they’ve only gone through a few lines of a few chats. JC pointed out that they didn’t read any chats in their entirety.

The Introduction of Daniel Spaulding
Daniel Spaulding (DS) is another community informant, one of Tarek’s friends. Before he testified, the jury left the room and Peter Krupp, DS’s lawyer, approached the stand with DS. For a minute it seemed that DS was not going to testify, but the judge read the immunity order for him and explained that, since he could not hurt himself with his own truthful testimony, the Fifth Amendment was the same as the immunity order in this case. Once again, the only way he could hurt himself was if he perjured himself. We also found out the most important thing about DS’s testimony: through his lawyer, he refused to meet with the Auerhahn, other prosecutors, or the FBI before he testified today. The importance of this action cannot be overstated. Although DS did meet with the government before his grand jury testimony, he refused to meet with them to prepare for trial testimony. The government’s own witness refusing to meet with them before testimony is a statement of resistance. DS’s testimony will be the first that hasn’t been formed by prosecutor implications, or the taint of suggestion, coercion, or script. DS will not sound like a mouthpiece for the government, spitting out their idea of who Tarek is according to the indictment. There is much relief in this. Instead, DS will testify as he is, a friend of Tarek who has caved to FBI pressure but who is resisting complete betrayal by speaking only his truth as he remembers it (we hope).

DS left the room so JC could bring up some objections he had, including a chat between Tarek and DS that mentions a beheading video, again one that Tarek had nothing to do with creating. The judge ruled the chat inadmissible.

Jeffrey Auerhahn Direct Examination of Daniel Spaulding
Jeffrey Auerhahn (JA) showed DS the immunity order and went over it with him as he did with the other informants. He then told the jury that DS met with them before the grand jury and in 2010, but that he didn’t meet with either prosecutors or defense before his testimony today. DS had no idea what questions the prosecution was going to ask. DS is 27 and lives in New Hampshire where he attends college. He is not married and has no children. He converted about 10 years ago. DS met Daniel Maldonado (DM) at the mosque in Manchester. DS admitted that he was influenced by DM, who introduced him to new ideas. JA asked what kind of ideas he introduced, and DS replied salafi, which is a movement that wants to purify and return to the foundation of Islam. DS testified that later DM’s ideas were salafi jihadi methodology. DM introduced DS to Ahmed Abousamra (AA) and Tarek around 2004. DS testified that Tarek’s views were similar to DS’s at the time, salafi with a “jihadi tilt.” JA asked if Tarek had ever given DS anything, and DS replied, “Not that I recall.” DS inferred, from the 19 Martyrs video that Tarek gave DM, that Tarek was supportive of Osama bin Laden. DS had a chance to review the chats and emails that were in evidence. In one of the chats, DS and Tarek are talking about DS having a copy of the 19 martyrs dvd, but when asked about it, DS said he didn’t recall having the dvd, let alone who gave it to him. He said he must have had it, he said, because he discussed it with Tarek. But witnesses are only allowed to testify from their memory. If looking at a chat, report, email, etc. doesn’t “refresh their recollection,” meaning doesn’t remind them of their memories of a time, they can’t testify about the event, no matter how much evidence the attorney questioning has in front of him or her.

DS testified to meeting AA after meeting Tarek, but he could not remember the exact location, or whether Tarek was there. JA was visibly having a difficult time questioning his witness, who had a vague recollection at best of the events JA was interested in. Even after showing DS a report of a meeting with the FBI where he talked about meeting Tarek, DS’s recollection was not refreshed.

“Do you recall telling the FBI that Tarek was there?”

“I don’t recall.”

“Did you watch a jihadi video?”

“I don’t recall.”

“Did you tell the FBI you did?”

“I don’t recall.” An exasperated JA moved on.

Tarek’s knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence was extensive. DS testified that he, DM, AA and Tarek were all on the Clear Guidance forum. DS testified that AA was an adamant supporter of Al-Qaeda, especially of Al-Zarqawi. Tarek was supportive, but not as enthusiastic. DS asked if he knew Ali Aboubakr, an informant who testified earlier in the trial. He did, and explained that many of the Muslim families in the area were close or at least knew each other. DS testified that AA considered the Muslim Brotherhood was sellouts, in that they compromised their beliefs.  The day ended with DS saying he thought AA’s dad was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Please join us in court! There are at most five trial days left for the prosecution to present their case: they will be important days! Let’s show Tarek our support. We will be at Moakley Courthouse in Boston 9am-1pm, Monday through Friday. Email freetarek@gmail.com for more details.


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  1. Updates: The Trial of Tarek Mehanna - Page 24 - November 21, 2011

    […] Updates: The Trial of Tarek Mehanna Update November 21st-Day 19 Janice Bassil Continuation of Cross-Examination of Daniel Maldonado Today Janice Bassil (JB) […]

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