Fort Dix plot suspect argues over wording

June 19, 2008 9:30:22 AM PDT
One of the men accused of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix on Thursday asked a federal judge to drop al-Qaida and other "inflammatory" language from an indictment and dismiss a number of the charges because they are redundant.

The pretrial filing by Dritan Duka also said a federal jury should not hear statements he made to the FBI following his arrest in which he discussed access to weapons because he was not properly advised of his right to remain silent.

Motions from Duka's codefendant's are expected to be filed before Saturday.

Federal prosecutors would not comment until filing their responses, which are due July 18, said Greg Reinert, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The filings should give perhaps the clearest picture yet of how the defense lawyers will try to poke holes in the government charges against Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, Serdar Tatar and the brothers Eljvir, Shain and Dritan Duka.

All five men are foreign-born Muslims, three born in the former Yugoslavia, who have lived much of their lives in the southern New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia.

Dritan Duka's filing asserted, "Language that the defendants were supposedly inspired by al Qaeda or possessed videos which espoused jihadist propaganda or showed attacks against the United States military goes well beyond alleging elements of the statute ...."

"References to al Qaeda on multiple occasions, the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attack, the USS Cole attack, attacks on the U.S. military and possession of videos espousing jihadist propaganda and recruiting the viewer to join their violent jihadist philosophy is hardly necessary to prove the elements of the statute," it added.

"Instead, these allegations are irrelevant, inflammatory and are placed into the indictment in order to incite prejudice and bias against the defendants and deprive them of a fair trial. As a consequence, this language may lead to a verdict based on emotion rather than fact," the motion stated.

The five men facing trial in U.S. District Court in Camden in late September were arrested in May 2007. Federal authorities said the arrests prevented an attack on Fort Dix, a New Jersey Army installation used primarily to train reservists and members of the National Guard for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The men are charged with attempted murder of military personnel, conspiracy to murder military personnel and weapons offenses. If convicted, they could face life in prison.

The government built its case with the help of two paid informants whose credibility the defense lawyers are expected to attack at trial.

The lawyers have portrayed their clients as men who liked to shoot guns - but not terrorists.

A sixth man, Agron Abdullahu, arrested with the others, pleaded guilty to providing weapons to illegal immigrants. He is serving a 20-month prison sentence.