Another Terror Conviction in Federal Court

Adis Medunjanian, a U.S. citizen, was convicted by a New York federal court jury yesterday of plotting to attack the New York subway system with two of his high school classmates, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay. Zazi and Ahmedzay had pleaded guilty earlier and testified against Medunjanian in exchange for a lesser sentence.

Medunjanian, originally from Bosnia, emigrated here with his family. His mother and sister, a nurse, testified on his behalf at trial.

The plot began after the defendant, Adis Medunjanin, a naturalized citizen born in Bosnia, went to Pakistan with two friends from high school with the intention of fighting American troops in Afghanistan. The two friends testified that they were instead recruited to attend a Qaeda training camp, where they were told they would be far more valuable to their cause by returning to the United States to carry out an act of terrorism.

Medunjanian, age 28, faces life in prison. His defense was that he abandoned the plot after having a falling out with his friends.

During the trial, Mr. Gottlieb argued that Mr. Medunjanin had a falling out with his friends — at one point while overseas, Mr. Zazi had a fistfight with Mr. Medunjanin — and lost contact with them when he returned to the United States two months before his friends did. Mr. Gottlieb said Mr. Medunjanin had never planned to follow through with the attack.

But prosecutors argued that he remained so dedicated that when he feared he was going to be arrested, months after the plot was uncovered, he fled in his car and intentionally crashed into approaching traffic in a last-ditch attempt to commit a suicide attack. Mr. Medunjanin called 911 moments before the crash, screaming, “We love death more than you love life.”

The Government chose some interesting expert witnesses on Al Qaida:

Saajid Badat, a Briton who was supposed to bring down an airplane as the second so-called shoe bomber, and Bryant Neal Vinas, a Long Island man who took up arms and fought against American troops in Afghanistan,were called as expert witnesses about Al Qaeda to corroborate facts about the overseas terrorism camps where they trained.

The U.S. Attorney and Medunjanian's lawyer agreed on one thing:

Both Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, and Robert C. Gottlieb, a lawyer for Mr. Medunjanin, said the trial showed that criminal courts were well suited to handle terrorism cases.

Lynch made another point:

Al Qaeda’s increasing use of “the homegrown system” made it more likely that people who were charged with terrorism understood the legal system and would cooperate with the government.

Put another way: At least until now, there's been no push for cooperation in exchange for lesser sentences in the military tribunals. But in February, Gitmo started planting seeds for it.

Majid Khan, a high-value detainee who was held in a secret overseas prison before being sent to Gitmo, took a cooperation deal to testify against other detainees. He's expected to be returned to Pakistan in 4 years.

Khan has agreed, if requested, to testify at military commission trials in the next four years, and he would then be eligible to be transferred to Pakistan at some point after that, the officials said. Khan has a wife and daughter in Pakistan.

Kahn tried to commit suicide twice, by eating through his arteries.

Other detainees are getting offers to be released from indefinite detention if they cooperate.

Another interesting case coming to the U.S. via extradition from Britain: Abu Hamza, who is blind in one eye and has a hook for a hand. He, along with Mr Ahmad, Mr Ahsan, M Mr Bary and Mr Al-Fawwaz, will be sent to Supermax in Colorado.

It was James Ujaama from Denver who brought the Government its case against Hamza by providing information in exchange for a light sentence of his own. The Guardian points out that almost all of the evidence gathered by the U.S. is "supergrass"--meaning it comes from terror suspects in U.S. custody. More here.

I've always thought that Condi Rice's blunder in pulling a German shoe salesman named al Masri off the street and whisking him off onto Ghost Air, only to release him later, was the result of some bureaucratic snafu in which Abu Hamza was mistaken for al Masri. Abu Hamza's full name is Abu Hamza al Masri.

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