ShareThis Page
News

Two found guilty of terrorism conspiracy in Mich.

| Wednesday, June 4, 2003

DETROIT -- Two Arab immigrants accused of collecting intelligence on potential terrorist targets such as Disneyland and a U.S. military base were convicted of being members of a "sleeper cell" Tuesday in the nation's first such trial stemming from the post-Sept. 11 security crackdown.

A third man was found guilty only on a fraud charge, and a fourth was acquitted of all counts.

"Today's verdict represents an important victory in the ongoing war against terrorism," U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins said. "Convicting two members of a terrorist sleeping cell, whose core aim is to avoid detection, is a daunting but crucial task for federal prosecutors."

The case began six days after Sept. 11 with a raid on a Detroit apartment that turned up videotape and sketches of what investigators said were potential terrorist targets, including Las Vegas and Disneyland.

The four Arab men, prosecutors alleged, worked as a sleeper cell that was part of a shadowy unidentified Muslim terrorist group. Prosecutors said the men conspired to help terrorists by raising money, producing false documents and gathering information.

Defense attorneys said their clients were victims of overzealous federal agents who relied on the lies of an admitted con man.

"Even in my client's conviction, there is no support for the government's contention," said William Swor, an attorney for Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, the alleged cell leader.

The trial was seen as an important test of the government's ability to root out sleeper cells operating the United States and stop terrorist attacks in the making.

"Today's convictions sends a clear message: The Department of Justice will work diligently to detect, disrupt and dismantle the activities of terrorist cells in the United States and abroad," said Attorney General John Ashcroft, who during the two-month trial was rebuked by the judge for publicly praising a government witness.

Other alleged terror cases prosecuted since Sept. 11, including those of shoe bomber Richard Reid and an alleged sleeper cell in Lackawanna, N.Y., ended in guilty pleas.

The verdicts in the Detroit trial came during the jury's seventh day of deliberations.

Elmardoudi, 37, and Karim Koubriti, 24, were found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. They and Ahmed Hannan, 34, also were convicted of conspiracy to engage in fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents. Hannan was acquitted of conspiracy to support terrorism.

Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 22, was acquitted of all charges. He wept after the jury left the courtroom.

"I'm happy that the verdict was not guilty for me," Ali-Haimoud told reporters outside the courthouse. "I'm not a terrorist."

Elmardoudi could get up to 20 years in prison, Koubriti up to 10, and Hannan as much as five. No sentencing date was set. Their lawyers are expected to appeal.

Ali-Haimoud was released a few hours after the verdict, but police later arrested him on an outstanding warrant accusing him of attempting to solicit a prostitute.

Elmardoudi, who lived in Minneapolis, was arrested in North Carolina in 2002. He was found with a cache of identification documents and $83,000 in cash. The others were arrested in Detroit.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me