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Day 25: Jay Carney to Cooperating Witness Kareem Abu Zahra: “You’ve even practiced lying, havent you?”


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NOTE: All quotes are paraphrased. Any and all errors are unintentional.

Day 25

Today, defense attorney Jay Carney continued his cross-examination of Kareem Abuzahra – an American Muslim who’s cooperation with the FBI resulted in the prosecution of Tarek Mehanna. Addressing Abuzahra’s ‘garbage bag tactic’, Carney asked him to clarify the statement he gave to the FBI. Relating his “recollection” of events, Abuzahra stated that prior to his departure to Yemen, Tarek had handed his brother Tamer a closed garbage bag containing papers with instructions on how to construct an explosive device, telling him to destroy what was inside.

KAZ: “That’s what Tarek told me.

With this statement, Abuzahra continued his trend of implicating as many individuals as possible during the testimony. As members of the audience would soon see, Tarek’s brother would not be the last person dragged into the trial.

Continuing with the clarification, Abuzahra stated that upon returning from the UAE, he met with Tamer. Before the grand jury, he testified that he didn’t know whether Tarek told Tamer the reason for the trip.

JC: “Were you truthful then?

KAZ: <LENGTHY MUMBLING> … “Yes.

JC: “Please try to disregard your prep for a moment [1]. As we heard in the recorded conversations [2], at that meeting you told Tamer his brother went to Yemen to look at schools. You asked Ahmad Abou-Samra if he made it to a school, and he said yes, ‘we visited the school, we didn’t like it.’

JC: “Did Tarek ever disagree with Ahmad Abou-Samra

KAZ: “A few times.

Moving on to Tarek’s maturity back in 2002, Carney presented several poems written by Tarek at the time. One mocked U.S. soldiers as being gay, another joking that George W. Bush and Rabbani [3] were lovers. Asking Abuzahra if these accurately reflected Tarek’s maturity at the time, Abuzahra remained silent.

JC: “This is a silly, immature poem. Or is this a serious piece of literature? Would this appear in the New Yorker, perhaps? Really?”

KAZ: <DRAWS PARALLEL TO CHILDREN’S POEMS>

JC: <SHOCKED> This is a poem you would read to a child???

Judge: <INTERJECTS> “We’ve gone on long enough.

JC: <READING ANOTHER POEM> “Would this be in an anthology?

KAZ: “I don’t understand.

Carney continued with his cross-examination by asking Abuzahra to read a series of e-mails sent by Tarek to several individuals. The communications covered topics anywhere from prophetic traditions, to Qur’anic exegesis. Some of the communications contrasted the jurisprudence Tarek followed to the legal rulings Abou-Samra grew acquainted with:

* AAS agreed with scholars who believe Islamic Canon law prohibits voting; Tarek disagreed

* AAS agreed with scholars who believe Islamic Canon law sanctioned the use of suicide bombing on civilians; Tarek disagreed.

* AAS agreed with scholars who believed that the killing of non-combatants was permissible if military targets were killed as well; Tarek disagreed.

Next, an audio transcript which was skipped during examination by prosecution was brought forth. In it, Tarek discussed with Abuzahra his departure from At-Tibyān Publications [4] as a result of the “extreme” statements made by members around the time of the Riyadh bombing [5]. In the recording, Tarek stated that there were a bunch of hot-head kids for whom Jīhad was a fairytale, and that at one point, they were like that.

JC: “Did you have to lie to Tarek for the purpose of the recordings? Was it important for you to pretend you were still Tarek’s friend?

KAZ: “Not important to me, important to what I had to do.

JC: “But Tarek had to think you were still his friend? Yes?

KAZ: … <SILENT>

JC: “Tarek had no idea you were recording him. You made no indications you were recording him. He made no indication you were recording him. You were just two friends driving in a car. There’s no way he could have known you were lying.

KAZ: … <SILENT>

JC: “Do you have any mannerisms you do when you are lying?

KAZ: “I don’t  know.

JC: “Do you wring your hands?

KAZ: “I don’t  know.

JC: “Do you avoid eye contact?”

KAZ: <EMPHATICALLY STATING> “I don’t  know!

JC: “Is there any way a stranger could tell if you’re lying?

KAZ: “I don’t  know.

JC: “So were you trying to make an incriminating statement about his trip to Yemen?

KAZ: … <SILENT>

Going back to his first encounter with the F.B.I., Carney asked Abuzahra to describe the first time they visited him.

JC: “The first thing that happened is the F.B.I. showed up at your house and said they wanted to talk for awhile.

Briefly correcting Carney, Abuzahra clarified they visited his parents’ home first while he was changing oil. Indicating that he wished to wash up first, Abuzahra and the F.B.I. convened at his own home later in the day since he “didn’t want to involve” his parents.

JC: “… You told them you were interested in becoming a scholar because it’s the highest point of enlightenment and that you’d be respected by the entire community. You also said you were going to visit two schools. That was a lie.

KAZ: “Yes.

JC: “When they arrived at your home, you asked them if your agreeing to meet them gave them permission to search your home. Were you afraid of what they’d find?

<PROSECUTION OBJECTS>

JC: “You had other problems to worry about besides your trip to Yemen. You’d given Ahmad Abou-Samra $500 dollars to hand to a terrorist organization in Pakistan. You’d also given Mr. Pippin $5000.

KAZ: <VERY LENGTHY PAUSE> …”Yes.

JC: “You’d also attempted to purchase machine guns from Mr. Maldonado.

KAZ: “No.

JC: <PUZZLED EXPRESSION> “You don’t recall asking Mr. Maldonado if he could assist you in the purchase of machine guns?

KAZ: “Automatic weapons.

JC: “Automatic weapons… I just want to get this straight. You’re trying to clarify to the jury that you asked for automatic weapons and not machine guns.

KAZ: “Yes

<AUDIENCE LAUGHS SOFTLY>

JC: “You ended your first meeting with the F.B.I. abruptly. You indicated that you wished to speak to a lawyer.

KAZ: “Yes.

JC: “Before you went back to meet them the second time, you talked things over with your lawyer. You wanted to arrange for a deal with him.

KAZ: … <SILENT>

JC: “You wanted immunity before the grand jury. You couldn’t be prosecuted for anything you said.

KAZ: “Yes

JC: “What was your obligation in this case?”

KAZ: “To cooperate with the government in this case.

JC: “You didn’t say it was to tell the truth. You were limited to what they wanted to show you.

KAZ: “Yes.

JC: “How many times did you meet with the F.B.I. before your testimony today … roughly?

KAZ: “… Dozens of times.

JC: “And with prosecutors?

KAZ: “Five to ten times … the meetings lasted for about four hours.

JC: “During those meetings, were you coached on how to testify?

KAZ: … <SILENT>

JC: “Were you told, for example, that if the defense asks you a two part question, don’t answer it?

KAZ: “I was advised on how to testify.

JC: “Do you know Daniel Spaulding?

KAZ: “Yes

JC: “Do know that when he came into this courtroom to testify, he did so without be prepped by the prosecution?

KAZ: … <SILENT>

And with that, Carney ended his direct cross-examination of Kareem Abuzahra. Attempting to put forward some manner of desperate damage control,  U.S. prosecutor Aloke Chakravarty jumped in with the same series of questions he’s been asking for the past four weeks:

What did the three of you plan to do once in Yemen?

Did the defendant or Ahmad Abou-Samra ever tell you about what they did in Yemen?

Having had enough of this, Carney made it a point to object to almost every question Chakravarty put forward:

Your honor, we’ve been through this again and again. They asked and answered these questions during redirect. I can answer them if you’d like!

To everyone’s surprise (especially Chakravarty’s), Judge O’Toole sustained most of the objections, leaving Chakravarty speechless as he flipped through his file binder. The sole exception to this was when Abuzahra was asked to identify a series of e-mail addresses. One by one, Abuzahra began to name members of Massachusett’s Muslim community. From students and professionals, to community organizers and mosque chairpersons, he systemically described who they were, and what role they serve in their respective communities. As shocking as this was, it left most of the audience confused, unsure of what purpose this part of the testimony served.

Finding no further avenue with which to navigate Abuzahra’s testimony, the prosecution ended it’s questioning and Abuzahra was excused. With the threat of perjury hanging over his head due the conflicting nature of his testimony with that of other witnesses, it was evident that sometimes a garbage bag isn’t enough to get rid of all your problems. Perhaps next time he should use Ziploc.

Following a brief break, the court session resumed with defense attorney Janice Bassil vehemently demanding that several pieces of evidence portraying or discussing Osama Bin Laden  not be presented to the jury:

All we’ve heard about is pictures of Usama Bin Laden, videos of Usama Bin Laden, … this isn’t about allowing the jury to decide this case, it’s about scaring the jury to the defendant’s point of view. It’s the same thing over, and over … it’s a waste of time!

It’s unfair to squeeze the defense’s case because prosecution insists on bringing up the same point over and over again.

… another picture of Bin Laden? This is ridiculous!

After concluding her statement with a request for a mistrial, Judge O’Toole refused without giving it a second thought.

Calling up their final witness for the day, U.S. Atty. Jeffrey Goeharing called Special Agent Brian Solecki – an investigator with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, to the stand. As with most of the special agents called to the stand, Agent Solecki mainly acted as a reader for a series of e-mails and instant messages sent to and from Tarek. The first e-mail discussed, was one sent by Tarek to an alumnus of Boston University (identified by name during the testimony). The message discussed a book [6] put together by the Muslim scholar Sh. Muhammed Naasir-ud-deen Al-Albanee. Following that, around five or more instant message sessions between Tarek and the same BU alumnus were read off, discussing news reports from Iraq. In one of the sessions, a link to a video is shared.

Goeharing halted his line of questioning at this point, and asked the court to play excerpts of the video [7]. Aside from Islamic vocal music, scenes of Muslim soldiers and General Al-Zarqawi [8] marching in Iraq were shown, along with Muslim engineers testing a custom built rocket. The prosecution then played two more excerpts from the video. The first was an audio of Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri [9]:

ياأمةالإسلام, إنميدانالعراقاليومهوأخطرميادينالجهادفيهذاالعصر،فعلىالأمةأنتدعممجاهدينالعراقالأبطالالذينيقاتلونفيالخطالأولعنعزةالإسلاموكرامته.

Oh Islamic nation, the arena of Iraq today – it is indeed the most critical arena of fighting in this age. So it is upon the nation to support the fighters of Iraq – the heroes who fight on the front line for the pride of Islam and its dignity.

The audience is then shown a clip of General Al-Zarqawi firing an unmounted U.S. M2-49 rifle for 45 consecutive seconds in broad daylight. At the conclusion of the galvanizing display, in a haze of smoke & dust, he stares directly into the camera with the weapon pressed firmly against his chest:

واللهلتهزمنأمريكافيالعراق , بإذناللهتعالى , ولتخرجنمنأرضالرافدينمهزومةذليلةحسيرةحقيرةبعوناللهتعالى

By Allah, America will be defeated in Iraq, by the permission of Allah The Exalted, and it will be expelled from The Land of the Two Rivers [i.e. Iraq] – defeated, belittled, exhausted, and worthless, with the aid of Allah The Exalted!

An ominous message and startling scene; one can only speculate what impression it made on the jury. As for the court staff, they made little effort to contain their amazement. Turning to each other, two U.S. Marshals nodded and said, “Wow!

Goeharing picked up his line of questioning once more, asking Mr. Solecki if he recognized the weapon being used by General Al-Zarqawi in the video. Identifying it as a U.S. M2-49, he commented that it is widely used in the Marine Core and Army infantry squads.

Bringing forth another series of instant messages (close to 20) with Tarek, the prosecution and Mr. Solecki roleplay – reading off select sections of the chat transcripts. Amongst them, a discussion between Tarek and a Harvard University student. The two talk about “dancing” videos, which eventually becomes an obvious reference to news videos from Muslim military units serving in Iraq.

Ending the session for the day, the prosecution indicated  that they will be bringing forth Evan Kohlmann – a U.S. terrorism consultant, the following day.

10.21.09 … never forget … never surrender!

________________________________

[1] Abuzahra was coached by U.S. prosecutors prior to his testimony.

[2] An important detail to point out, as Abou-Samra was not aware he was being recorded at the time. He said he was unable to find a contact [in Yemen] and that it was a waste of time after having searched the whole country. There was nothing there he was interested in, so he went to Jordan then to Iraq. Tarek, however, came home. He did not go to Jordan or Iraq.

[3] Burhanuddin Rabbani: U.S. appointed president of Afghanistan from November to December of 200, following the fall of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. A staunch opponent of the Taliban government, the conditions surrounding his September 2011 assassination are still unclear.

[4] At-Tibyan Publications: The now defunct British publishing house & web forum where translators from across the globe collaborated in translating classical Islamic literature from Arabic to English.

[5] A reference to the May 2003 bombings of ‘Dorrat Al-Jadawel’, ‘Al Hamra Oasis Village’, and ‘Vinneli Corp.’ compounds in Riyadh, KSA.

[6] Sahīh wa Da’eef Mawārid Al-Dham’ān ila Zawā`id Ibn Hibbān [مواردالظمآن إلي زوائد ابن حبان]

[7] ‘This is a Message for Mankind’ [هذابلاغ للناس]: The April 2006 video message produced by the media cabinet of the transitional council of Sunni Muslim soldiers in Iraq [the consultation council which predated the Islamic State of Iraq]. It is the first and only documented instance of the Sunni Muslim resistance general Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi appearing on video. In it, General Al-Zarqawi delivers a lengthy address detailing the critical situation in Iraq, and ill effect the U.S. sponsored Shi’ite government was having on the country. Following the address, a rare instance of Sunni Muslim battalions marching in daylight is shown.

[8] General Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh (a.k.a Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi): A native of Zarqa, Jordan who led Muslim resistance soldiers following the American attack on Iraq. Although his legacy is often tied to his heavy handed response to American & Shi’ite attacks, his academic background was no less distinguishing – having studied under the Palestinian Muslim scholar Sh. Isam Al-Barqawi. American forces required two 500 lb. bombs to execute his assassination in the June of 2006, due the degree with which Muslim defensive lines were fortified during his tenure.

[9] The second in command of the Al-Qaeda Muslim resistance network back in 2006.

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