US judge won't dismiss preacher's terrorism case

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Associated Press

Posted on August 30, 2013 at 5:36 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge on Friday refused to toss out terrorism charges facing an Egyptian Islamic preacher extradited from Great Britain and said she'll decide during a trial next year whether government references to al-Qaida being led by Osama bin Laden more than a decade ago and other statements are inflammatory.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest left intact the 11-count indictment brought against Mustafa Kamel Mustafa as she ruled on pretrial motions.

Mustafa faces trial in March on charges filed in Manhattan after his arrest in England in 2004. He was extradited to the United States last year. His lawyers had asked the judge to dismiss charges including conspiracy to take hostages, hostage-taking and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Prosecutors say Mustafa conspired with Seattle men to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and helped to abduct two American tourists and 14 others in Yemen in 1998.

Defense attorney Joshua Dratel said he was disappointed that motions were denied but had not fully read the opinion.

The judge, in declining to dismiss the indictment, said the deciding issue was whether the crimes were calculated to harm American citizens and interests, not whether the defendant was in the U.S., participated in communications into or out of the U.S. or transacted business in the U.S.

She said the facts in the indictment were "plainly sufficient" to support the charges even if Mustafa had no expectation that he would be prosecuted in the United States.

She said Mustafa was on notice that his actions could harm U.S. people and interests because al-Qaida had made statements that it wanted to harm the U.S.

Defense arguments that an allegation in the indictment that Mustafa was on the telephone and advising hostage takers during their criminal acts was insufficient to identify his participation in a crime "is simply wrong," she wrote.

"Even so," she added, "defendant is alleged to have done more: to have equipped the hostage takers with a means of communication — which, for hostage taking to achieve its purposes can be a critical tool — and have purchased additional minutes so that the hostage takers could succeed in their criminal activities."

The judge also said the allegations about setting up a holy war, or jihad, training camp in Bly, Oregon, were sufficient.

The indictment said Mustafa and a co-defendant in October 1999 discussed setting up the training camp and a co-conspirator told Mustafa he was stockpiling weapons and ammunition in the United States.

The judge said the amount of evidence gathered before the trial was voluminous.

"At the end of the day, there are only a few events really at issue," she said.

She said complaints that the indictment contained inflammatory language, including that al-Qaida was led by bin Laden, could be handled at trial on a case-by-case basis, though she noted that the language had been permitted at past terrorism trials.

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