[Ppnews] 3 Brothers Sentenced to Life for Plot at Ft. Dix

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 29 11:50:01 EDT 2009

Important background story follows
3 Brothers Sentenced to Life for Holy War Plot at Ft. Dix

Published: April 28, 2009

CAMDEN, N.J. (Reuters) ­ Three Muslim brothers 
from Albania were sentenced to life in prison on 
Tuesday for a plot to kill American soldiers at 
the Fort Dix military base, which prosecutors 
said was inspired by the idea of holy war against the United States.

The men, Dritan Duka, 30, Shain Duka, 28, and 
Eljvir Duka, 25, all illegal immigrants, were 
each sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

The three, 
operated a roofing business in Cherry Hill, N.J., 
were among five foreign-born Muslims convicted in 
December of planning an attack at the base, about 
40 miles east of Philadelphia. The attack was never carried out.

The other two men who were convicted, Mohamad 
Shnewer, a Jordanian-born taxi driver from 
Philadelphia, and Serdar Tatar, a 
convenience-store clerk from Turkey, are to be sentenced on Wednesday.

Judge Robert B. Kugler of Federal District Court 
here said in sentencing Dritan Duka, “The 
evidence was overwhelming as to the guilt of this 
defendant.” He was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison.

“He showed not even the slightest bit of remorse 
for what he has done nor what he has put his 
beautiful children through,” the judge said. 
“There is no question in my mind that were he 
free, he would continue on this route.”

Dritan Duka read a statement saying he was 
innocent and a victim of a conspiracy by the United States government.

He said he and his brothers had been manipulated 
by one of their co-defendants, Mr. Shnewer, and 
by Mahmoud Omar, an F.B.I. informant who had infiltrated the group.

Defense lawyers argued during the eight-week 
trial that their clients were entrapped into 
making statements about holy war by Mr. Omar and 
informant who obtained hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings.

During the trial, prosecutors called the men 
“radical Islamists” and said they discussed 
killing as many soldiers as possible in their planned attack.

The Fort Dix 5 convictions: provocation and frameup?

By Joseph Piette
Published Apr 11, 2009 2:44 PM

Mohamed Shnewer is one of the Fort Dix 5, accused 
and convicted along with Serdar Tatar and Dritan, 
Eljivir and Shain Duka of conspiring to kill 
soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. Shnewer’s sentencing 
hearing is scheduled before a federal judge at 
the end of April. His family contacted Workers 
World to get out the truth about his case.

At Shnewer’s home in Cherry Hill, N.J., this 
close-knit family, including his sisters Inas 
Shnewer and Hnan Duka, his mother Faten Shnewer 
and his father, Ibrahim Shnewer, all expressed 
their love and concern for him in numerous ways. 
But how did the Shnewers’ 23-year-old son, who 
had quit Camden County Community College to help 
his parents pay their mortgage, end up facing a 
possible life sentence without parole.

Tatar, an immigrant from Turkey, worked at a 
7-Eleven store. The three Duka brothers, ethnic 
Albanian immigrants, worked long hours in their 
family’s roofing business. Shnewer, of 
Palestinian heritage from Jordan, was in his cab 
waiting for a fare at the Philadelphia 
International Airport when armed FBI agents arrested him on May 7, 2007.

Ibrahim Shnewer explained that he is a cabdriver 
too and was also at the airport waiting for a 
fare. When he noticed a commotion, he 
investigated and saw his son under arrest. Cops 
told him it was just to question him about a 
fight. Next day, they found out the real charges.

In the Shnewer family’s view, these working-class 
young adults, all of whom moved to this country 
as children, were harassed, tricked, manipulated 
and entrapped by FBI informants, charged with 
being terrorists, then labeled “Muslim fanatics” 
and “Jersey jihadists” by the local media.

Background to the case

All five young men graduated from Cherry Hill 
High School. None had criminal records. They 
liked to take vacations as a group in the Pocono 
Mountains for skiing, horseback riding, watching 
movies, shooting weapons at a designated public 
shooting range, paintball playing and other similar activities.

After one vacation in 2005, they dropped off a 
video of their trip at Circuit City to get it 
transferred into a DVD. Those who saw the tape 
say it shows friends and relatives vacationing in 
the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. The people 
speak mostly in English, but the words “jihad” 
and “Allahu Akbar” (which means “God is great”) 
are spoken. But many devout and law-abiding 
Muslims use those words like punctuation marks. (Time Magazine, Dec. 6, 2007)

Brian Morgenstern at Circuit City, while copying 
the video, noticed at one point bearded men in 
camouflage shooting guns and shouting in a 
foreign tongue. He then watched the whole 90 
minutes, and the next day called the police. 
“They arrived within an hour. Two officers 
watched the video with Morgenstern, and when they 
heard the word ‘jihad’ (which can refer to a holy 
war or a personal struggle of any kind), they 
said, ‘Stop it. That’s enough.’ With that, the 
Fort Dix case file was opened. The officers made 
a copy of the video and left.” (Time Magazine)

Ibrahim Shnewer and Faten Shnewer explained that 
using the words “Allahu Akbar” is common, used on 
many occasions, “like Americans say Jesus Christ 
all the time.” It does not mean a terrorist plot is happening.

Role of the informant/provocateur

The star prosecution witness and informant, 
Mahmoud Omar, is Egyptian-born. He entered the 
U.S. through Mexico in the 1990s without legal 
papers. When the FBI hired him in April 2006, he was on probation.

“In 2001, he [Omar] had been charged with opening 
bank accounts, depositing bogus checks and then 
trying to draw down the account, according to the 
indictment. He had pled guilty to three counts of 
bank fraud and was sentenced to six months in 
prison and five years’ probation and ordered to 
pay Patriot Bank $9,550 in restitution.” (Time Magazine)

According to an Oct. 27 Associated Press article, 
“The defense lawyers also say that Omar sold his 
Social Security card for $3,000 while working for 
the FBI. They told jurors that when the FBI found 
out about it, agents agreed to look the other 
way.” The Newark Star-Ledger reported on Dec. 22, 
2008, that Omar received $240,000 for working as an FBI informant in this case.

Another informant, Besnik Bakalli, “was wanted 
for a shooting in Albania and awaiting 
deportation when agents plucked him from a 
Pennsylvania jail.” It was revealed during the 
trial that he received $150,000 pay during the 
undercover operation. (Star-Ledger, Dec. 22)

Unable to afford attorneys experienced with 
political trials, all five defendants were given court-appointed lawyers.

Using bias to convict

The prosecution’s terrorism “expert” was Evan 
Kohlman, “who has no expertise beyond 
undergraduate qualifications, yet he has 
testified at numerous terrorism trials.” Kohlman 
made every effort possible through the use of 
videos and the Internet to link al-Qaeda and 
Osama Bin Laden to each defendant. “Shnewer’s 
family said Kohlman was especially damaging to 
their case, comparing the Poconos video to jihad 
videos, dropping inflammatory words like Osama 
Bin Laden and al-Qaeda often into his testimony.” (Spinwatch, April 29)

As one U.S. defense attorney explained, “If a 
jury in the U.S. finds any connection between 
your client and Osama bin Laden, you’re going to 
get convicted.” (The Nation, Feb. 4, 2008). Trial 
Judge Robert Kugler allowed Kohlman to testify, 
but disallowed a defense expert on the grounds 
that since he was still in the military, he could 
not testify against the state.

In 2005, Omar made contact with the five friends, 
claiming he wanted to convert to Islam to make up 
for numerous mistakes in his life. Inas Shnewer 
said Mahmoud Omar instigated the plot to attack 
Fort Dix, pushing her brother over and over to 
download videos of jihadists; pushing him to 
drive to Fort Dix; pushing him to go to the 
Poconos for firearms practice. Tired of the 
harassment, for months Shnewer stopped answering 
phone calls from Omar “maybe 100 times,” Inas said.

In hundreds of hours of recordings, Shnewer 
mentioned Fort Dix only once, and was the only 
defendant to say those two words on tape. Even on 
tape, Omar often castigated Mohamed for inaction: 
“We’ve been talking about this matter for three 
months. Start taking some steps. That’s it.” (Star-Ledger, Nov. 12, 2008)

Only certain quotes from the tapes were selected 
during the trial. Hnan, who is married to Eljivir 
Duka, asked, “Why didn’t the jury hear Shain, 
Eljivir and Dritan say, ‘It is forbidden to kill 
soldiers?’” There was never a meeting in which 
all five defendants discussed or agreed on the alleged plot.

Finally, when Dritan Duka offhandedly expressed a 
preference to buy a weapon to use at the Poconos 
firing range instead of using their rented 
rifles, it was Omar who pushed this idea. Omar 
made arrangements with a supposed Baltimore gun 
dealer (actually an FBI agent) to show up with 
the weapons for sale. The FBI arrested four of 
the Fort Dix 5 defendants at that point. “Mohamed 
was not even there,” said Faten Shnewer.

Sensationalist headlines nationwide the next day 
read, “Islamists charged with plotting Fort Dix 
attack.” (Seattle Times) The trial was held under 
heavy security, with car lanes closed around the 
Camden courthouse and as many as 10 deputy U.S. 
marshals ringing the courtroom, while the jury 
was sequestered each night. After the eight-week 
trial all five were convicted of conspiracy last Dec. 23.

“This is not justice,” Mohamed’s mother told the 
Star-Ledger . “The only reason they put five kids 
in jail is because they are Muslim.”

The sentencing hearings for the Duka brothers 
will be held at 9:30 a.m. April 28 at the U.S. 
District Court, 5th and Cooper, 4th Floor. Serdar 
Tatar and Mohamed Shnewer will have their 
hearings the next day. Their families are asking 
all supporters to come and show their solidarity with these innocent young men.

For more information, see the defense 
organization Web site, www.projectsalam.org.

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