[Ppnews] Miami: Collapse of Liberty City 7 case exposes fraud of “war on terror”

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Dec 17 12:49:46 EST 2007


News & Analysis: North America
By Joe Kay

The US government's case against seven impoverished Miami residents 
for allegedly plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and other 
buildings was dealt a major setback on Thursday. A jury acquitted one 
of the defendants on all charges and could not reach a decision on 
the other six.

Judge Joan Lenard of the US District Court for the Southern District 
of Florida declared a mistrial. US prosecutors said they would move 
to retry Narseal Batiste, the alleged leader of the group, along with 
five co-defendants.

The individual acquitted, Lyglenson Lemorin, had moved from Miami 
several months before the arrests took place. There is no breakdown 
in the jury positions on the other cases, but the foreman said the 
jury was "evenly split." The jury was deadlocked on all seven cases 
for over a week.

The seven men--who all live in Liberty City, one of the poorest 
sections of Miami--were accused of trying to link up with Al Qaeda to 
blow up the Sears Tower and several federal buildings in the Miami 
area. Five of the individuals are US citizens, while two are 
Haitians. Those who were not acquitted face up to 70 years in prison 
if eventually convicted.

The arrest of the seven men in June 2006 was announced with much 
fanfare. US government officials declared that it was a major victory 
in the fight against "homegrown terrorism," with media headlines 
declaring that the disrupted plot was "even bigger than September 
11." Then US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales warned that the men 
were prepared to "wage a full ground war against the United States," 
while the government declared that the indictment was "yet another 
important victory in the war on terrorism."

However, from the very beginning it was clear that the government 
charges were highly sensationalized for political purposes. The 
alleged plot was more the product of the imagination and prodding of 
two FBI informants, and there was never a threat of a terrorist 
attack. FBI Deputy Director John Pistole acknowledged at a press 
conference announcing the arrests that the alleged plot was "more 
aspirational than operational"--that is, there were never any real 
plans to do anything.

The manufactured character of the accusations has since come more 
fully to light. It soon became clear that the main source of all the 
plots and the principal source of resources for the group came in the 
form of an FBI informant posing as an "Al Qaeda representative."

One of the central components of the government's case was a video, 
recorded in a warehouse set up by the FBI to which the group was led 
by the informant, documenting an "oath" to Al Qaeda. The defendants 
were charged with, among other things, "conspiracy to provide 
material support to Al Qaeda." However, the only supposed contact 
that they had with "Al Qaeda" was through an FBI informant--they had 
never been in contact with a real member of the organization.

The men never acquired weapons or formulated actual plans to carry 
out what the government claims they planned to do. It was a 
government informant who provided the initial suggestion that they 
join up with Al Qaeda, and it was the same informant who provided the 
men with a camera and car to photograph some buildings in Miami.

In the trial, the defense for Batiste argued that the men only began 
cooperating with the informant posing as an "Al Qaeda representative" 
because they were desperate for money. Batiste's attorney, Ana 
Jhones, said that at one point Batiste pawned a camera he was given 
by the informant for $56 in order to feed his family.

Jhones said that the FBI entrapped her client in a "fabricated 
crime." In her opening statement, Jhones said, "This case is about an 
orchestrated event, a ploy. These two informants knew how to work the 
system. They wrote the script."

In particular, the defense argued that Batiste was going along with 
one of the informants in the hopes that he would deliver on $50,000 
he had promised them, but which never arrived. Batiste said that 
several of the "plans," including the plot to destroy the Sears 
Tower, had been developed without the knowledge of the other men. The 
sole intention, Batiste said, was to get money out of the informant.

"Nobody knew about [the Sears Tower plot]. Like I said, this was 
imagination," Batiste testified, according to the Miami Herald. "I 
would have been deeply embarrassed if any of the brothers knew I was 
engaging in that kind of conversation."

One relevant aspect of the case that did not come up in the trial was 
the identity and history of the government informants, both of whom 
have a shady past. The two informants--Abbas al-Saidi and Elie 
Assad--earned over $130,000 for their services to the FBI, and were 
therefore eager to provide evidence in order to justify their employment.

Early in the trial, Judge Lenard ruled that key information about 
these two men could not be presented to the jury. Al-Saidi had 
previously been involved in an attempt to extort money from a friend 
who had raped Al-Saidi's girlfriend. He was later convicted of 
battery for beating the same girlfriend.

An article by Bob Norman in the Miami New Times notes, "[Judge] 
Lenard has seemed intent throughout the trial to keep the jury in the 
dark about the nature of the government informants. And it got worse. 
The most damning revelation about [Assad] ... was barred from the 
jury altogether." Assad was the main informant who set up the alleged plots.

"Agents flew Assad ... to Miami from Mexico to pose as an Al Qaeda 
operative," Norman notes. "The fed ultimately paid the career 
informant $80,000 for his efforts, but former FBI agent James Wedick, 
who was hired as an expert witness by the defense, says Assad never 
should have been authorized to work on the case at all" because he 
had previously failed a polygraph test. "Although the credibility of 
a confidential informant might seem relevant, Lenard barred any 
mention of the polygraph during the trial," Norman wrote.

The identity and character of the government informants simply serves 
to underscore the fraudulent character of the government case as a whole.

The case of the Liberty City 7 is only one in a series of "terrorism" 
cases brought by the government, based on extremely flimsy evidence, 
often produced by paid informants.

In April 2006, a jury convicted Hamid Hayat of providing material 
support for terrorism based on testimony of an informant who was paid 
$250,000. Hayat and his father were allegedly part of an Al Qaeda 
cell, and Hayat is alleged to have attended an Al Qaeda training 
camp, though there is no evidence that he did so. In September, Hayat 
was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Also in 2006, the government won the conviction of a New York City 
man, Shahawar Marin Siraj, for a supposed conspiracy to bomb a New 
York subway station. The plot was concocted by an informant who was 
paid $100,000. As in the case of the Liberty City 7, there were no 
material steps taken toward realizing the alleged plot.

Other more prominent cases have also revealed serious government 
misconduct. Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty to playing a role 
in the September 11 attacks, was sentenced to life in prison in 2006. 
The government later revealed that it had withheld videotapes that it 
had said did not exist. The CIA's destruction of the separate 
videotapes of the interrogation and torture of two key prisoners also 
calls into question the entire case against Moussaoui.

One of the prisoners that the CIA interrogated and tortured was Abu 
Zubaydah, who fingered Jose Padilla as a member of Al Qaeda. The 
destruction of the videotapes of Zubaydah's interrogation casts 
further doubt on the trial of Padilla, who was convicted in August 
and awaits sentencing. Padilla was held in solitary confinement and 
tortured for years before he was brought to trial, and the entire 
case against him was based on extremely weak evidence.

What the Liberty City 7 case principally reveals is the utter 
fraudulence of the so-called "war on terrorism," which from the 
beginning has been used for two essential purposes: as a rationale 
for US militarism abroad and to justify attacks on democratic rights 
in the United States. It has formed the principal basis--accepted by 
both political parties and the media establishment--for an unpopular 
policy demanded by the American ruling elite.

In order to justify this policy, including the systematic erosion of 
basic democratic guarantees--the Patriot Act, the expansion of 
government spying powers, the designation of prisoners as "enemy 
combatants" who can be held indefinitely without charge, the use of 
torture--the government has required a constant stream of supposed 
threats. When such threats did not exist, it was necessary, as in the 
case of the Liberty City 7, to manufacture them.

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