The pair, 39-year-old Babar Ahmad and 34-year-old Syed Talha
Ahsan, have argued in papers filed in U.S. District Court in New
Haven, Connecticut, that they have a right to more information on
the witness, British citizen Saajid Badat.
According to U.S. prosecutors, Badat was recruited into al Qaeda as
a result of Ahmad's work and went on to play a role in the attempt
by "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, another Briton, to blow up a jetliner
over the Atlantic Ocean just three months after the September 11,
Defense attorneys for Ahmad and Ahsan argued before U.S. District
Judge Janet Hall that the government should provide transcripts of
55 taped interviews with Badat conducted in 2008 by British
authorities and photos of suspected militants.
But prosecutors told the judge they have sought the materials and
were denied by the British government, receiving only a summary
report by an FBI agent present during 2008 testimony by Badat in
"I cannot order a foreign government to provide information they
refuse to release, and the government obviously cannot do that
either," Hall said, in ruling that Ahmad and Ahsan could not have
access to the material.
Badat will be questioned by prosecutors and defense attorneys in
London during a three-day deposition starting on April 9.
The judge denied the defendants' request that they have Internet
access during Badat's deposition in the sentencing phase of their
case, but they will be permitted to watch the questioning along with
their attorneys in a Hartford conference room and be told what Badat
Prosecutors argued the sealed documents defense lawyers are
requested are too "sensitive" to release, while the defense
contended they could show that Badat would be willing to lie about
[to top of second column]
"Our frustration is that Mr. Ahmad and Mr. Ahsan wanted to be
prosecuted in the United Kingdom, but were sent to stand trial in
the United States and now we cannot have access to all the materials
we need to cross examine one of the key witnesses," assistant
federal public defender Kelly Barrett told Hall.
Defense lawyers noted in court papers that Badat served less than
seven years in prison and has not been extradited to face charges in
the United States.
"The witness ultimately moved on from (recruitment by) Ahmad and
came under the mentorship and training of actual al Qaeda members
who trained and prepared him for al Qaeda's so-called 'shoe-bomb'
plot," prosecutors argued in court papers requesting that Badat be
interviewed in Britain.
Ahmad and Ahsan in December pleaded guilty to two counts of
providing material support to terrorists for their roles in running
the Azzam.com website, which raised money for al Qaeda and the
Taliban. They were prosecuted in Connecticut because U.S. officials
there played a key role in the probe.
They are scheduled to be sentenced in July. Ahmad faces up to 25
years in prison, while Ahsan faces up to 15 years behind bars and
each could be fined up to $500,000.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Bernard Orr and Lisa Shumaker)
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