[Pnews] Fort Dix 5 brothers back in court - Notorious FBI sting victims, three immigrant Muslims

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 6 14:26:00 EST 2016

  Fort Dix 5 brothers back in court

    Notorious FBI sting victims, three immigrant Muslims originally from
    Albania, get their chance for justice

January 6, 2016 5:00AM ET
by Jenifer Fenton 
@jeniferfenton <http://www.twitter.com/jeniferfenton>

The issue of law enforcement entrapment of suspects on terrorism charges 
is back in the spotlight as one of the most widely known recent cases — 
concerning the Fort Dix 5 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2015/06/29/the-outrageous-manufactured-case-against-the-fort-dix-five/> — 
returns to a courtroom on Wednesday.

Three Muslim brothers are appealing their convictions at a time when 
terrorism arrests of Muslims and the often controversial use by police 
and the FBI of confidential informants are once again in the headlines.

For example, prosecutors recently charged a man with a history of mental 
health issues — who had been talking to at least three confidential 
sources — with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic 
State in Iraq and the Levant 
<http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/12/31/ny-man-arrested-for-isil-support-case-built-on-confidential-sources.html> (ISIL).

After a trial that lasted 12 weeks, on Dec. 22, 2008, Dritan, Shain and 
Eljvir Duka, Albanian immigrant brothers, were convicted and later 
sentenced to life in prison for what their supporters said in press 
release was their “questionable role in a government-manufactured 
‘conspiracy’ <http://www.projectsalam.org/events/12-12-15.html>” to kill 
U.S. military members on a base 
<http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/three-brothers-sentenced-life-prison-terms-conspiring-kill-us-soldiers> in 
New Jersey — a “plot they literally had never heard of.”

It is a case that has been called one of the biggest terrorism 
of Islamic radicals but now also perhaps among the most 
criticized post-9/11 entrapment examples 

The three brothers, who will be present in court, have rare separate 
hearings**in Camden, New Jersey. The trial judge who presided over the 
original case will review the men’s appeals: motions for postconviction 
relief, which usually seek to have a sentence or conviction vacated or 
to request resentencing 

In this case the Dukas, who have been held in separate prisons, 
are seeking to have their convictions vacated, arguing that they did not 
receive a fair trial — more specifically, that their defense attorneys 
were not effective and that they were not allowed to testify.

“The fact that the court granted a hearing in this case is unusual and 
suggests maybe the court is troubled by the outcome. The outcome is 
clearly unjust. So we’re hoping that this is a signal that the court 
would like to take another look at the case 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sPefoWNs6o>,” said Steve Downs, a 
civil liberties attorney in Albany, New York.

Chris Christie, then the U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey 
and now the state’s governor and a Republican presidential candidate, 
was responsible for prosecuting the original case 
“The philosophy that supports and encourages jihad around the world 
against Americans came to live here in New Jersey 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SBIQg8t-Xo> and threaten the lives of 
our citizens through these defendants,” he said in 2007 at a federal 
courthouse. “Fortunately, law enforcement in New Jersey was here to stop 

Trouble for the Dukas started in the winter of 2006 when they and two 
other men went on vacation in the Pocono Mountains, in northeastern 
Pennsylvania. They recorded their activities, including horseback riding 
and shooting rented guns at a public range. In order to share the 
vacation experience, they went to Circuit City to make DVD copies so 
each person could have one.

“The Circuit City person turned in the video to the police and said, 
‘These people are shouting out Allahu akbar while shooting weapons,’” 
Burim Duka, their youngest brother, said in the Intercept documentary 
“Entrapped.” <https://vimeo.com/131874545>

And that’s when the FBI got involved and started an investigation that 
lasted 15 months. Two government informants, Mahmoud Omar and Bakalli 
Besnik, who had criminal pasts and were paid some $400,000 combined, 
came up with, planned and lured five men — the three oldest Duka 
brothers, Mohamed Shnewer and Serdar Tatar — with a plot to attack a 
military base 

Omar and Shnewer “came up with a plot to strike Fort Dix. The informant 
needed Shnewer to say that my brothers were in on the plot,” Burim Duka 
said in “Entrapped.”

“But once the government seen that my brothers weren’t in and knew 
nothing about it, they created an illegal gun deal. Mahmoud Omar knew 
that my brothers were into guns … He set up the deal for my brothers to 
buy some weapons, and the weapons were provided by the FBI,” he added.

The Dukas have said they were interested in owning the guns to avoid the 
hassle of lining up to rent some on another vacation or for target 
shooting. Law enforcement put “two completely different theories 
together <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sPefoWNs6o>,” Downs said.

When the trial came around, Omar testified that Dritan Duka and Shain 
Duka were clueless about the plot 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/16/fbi-fort-dix-five>. “[They] had 
nothing to do with this matter," he told the court.

Regardless of such statements, the five men were convicted and sentenced.

The Fort Dix 5 and the Newburgh 4 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/12/newburgh-four-fbi-entrapment-terror> are 
among the highest-profile cases, critics say, of prosecuting people for 
plots that are fabricated and controlled by law enforcement or 
informants acting on their behalf. They see it as a form of pre-emptive 
prosecution, which became popular after 9/11 

The FBI has defended its actions. In response to another FBI case 
involving undercover operations, FBI Director James Comey said the 
bureau’s use of such law-enforcement tactics was justified and fair. 
“Every undercover operation involves deception, which has long been a 
critical tool in fighting crime. The FBI’s use of such techniques is 
subject to close oversight, both internally and by the courts 
that review our work,” he said.

But that argument does not convince some campaigners. In these types of 
sting cases, the government “kind of choreographs the whole thing, and 
they know that if it involves a plot with attacks in the U.S., [the 
defendants] are looking at really harsh sentences,” said Kathy Manley 
of Project SALAM (Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims) and the legal 
chairwoman of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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