4 plead not guilty to conspiring to attackWritten by John Seewer (AP) | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Four men pleaded not guilty April 24 to charges they plotted to recruit and train terrorists to attack U.S. and allied troops overseas.
Zubair A. Ahmed, Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi and Wassim I. Mazloum are accused of conspiring to kill or maim people outside the United States, including military personnel in Iraq.
A fifth man, Khaleel Ahmed, 26, pleaded not guilty to similar charges last month. He and Zubair Ahmed, 27, are cousins from Illinois. Amawi, El-Hindi and Mazloum live in Ohio. All are U.S. citizens except Mazloum, who came to the U.S. legally from Lebanon.
The five sought recruits and sites for training in firearms, hand-to-hand combat and the use of explosives, according to the indictment. They are also accused of agreeing to raise funds for training and downloading Internet information on improvised explosive devices.
Prosecutors said Khaleel and Zubair Ahmed attended a Muslim convention in Cleveland in 2004 with El-Hindi and a former U.S. military man who helped foil the plot.
The men talked about a five-year plan to carry out their mission, said Gregg Sofer, a justice department attorney, during a detention hearing.
“This conversation is nothing short of devastating,’’ he said.
Zubair Ahmed’s attorney Terry Gilbert, said the men never took any action.
“Is that a crime to talk about guns?’’ Gilbert asked. “There’s no talk about jihad. There’s no talk about killing Americans.’’
U.S. District Judge James Carr ordered the Ahmeds be released upon posting bond, which he set at $500,000. He noted the cousins had known for a year they and others were under investigation but did not try to flee.
The five men face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted of conspiring to kill Americans overseas, according to federal prosecutors.
Steve Hartman, El-Hindi’s attorney, said his client has maintained his innocence from the beginning. Hartman said the government’s informant overreached and instigated the investigation.
“I think he created a vast majority of this case,’’ Hartman said.
The three men from the Toledo area were arraigned on new charges filed by federal prosecutors two months ago. They were first arrested in February 2006.
The three were charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Amawi also was charged with verbally threatening the president of the United States and unlawful distribution of a video about suicide bomber vests.
Amawi and El-Hindi also were charged with distributing information about explosive chemicals downloaded from the Internet.