Witless for the Prosecution

MOUSSAOUI.184The judge in the Zacarias Moussaoui case is threatening to throw out the prosecution’s bid to have him executed after learning that a government lawyer had improperly coached seven witnesses. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema learned that an attorney for the Transportation Security Administration, Carla J. Martin, had e-mailed seven former current and former government including transcriptions from the trial and giving them detailed instructions as to how they should testify.

“In all my years on the bench, I’ve never seen a more egregious violation of the rule about witnesses,” Judge Brinkema said before sending the jury home for two days. She said that the actions of the government lawyer, identified in court papers as Carla J. Martin, would make it “very difficult for this case to go forward.”

As Moussaouiis is the only person charged in an American court with involvement in the Sept. 11 terrorist plot, the Bush administration was adamant that he be executed. They argued that even though he was not a direct participant in the Sept. 11 attacks, he is responsible for those deaths because he lied to investigators when he was arrested, concealing his knowledge of Al Qaeda’s interest in flying planes into buildings. The argument goes that if he had told the truth, his answers would have forced government aviation officials to increase security, possibly foiling the plot. Because Moussaoui has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, the sole question before the jury is whether he should be executed or imprisoned for life. It now appears that the prosecution bungling has answered the question.

On A Similar Note

What happens when the government investigates an immigrant for terrorist ties, but can’t find sufficient evidence? Often, officials can get the suspect deported on immigration charges that have nothing to do with the original terror claims.

An Iraqi Kurdish immigrant from Kirkland, Washington, Sam Malkandi, has been ordered deported even though the government was unable to prove allegations that he had ties to Tawfiq bin Attash, a senior al-Qaida operative suspected of involvement in a 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen and the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

According to an article in the Kirkland Courier:

Malkandi – a former Muslim who converted to Mormonism and ran a Kenmore Subway shop until his arrest last August – denies any connection to the terrorist organization or even knowing who bin Attash was, said Malkandi’s lawyer, Jason Burnett.

Although the government was unable to prove that Malkandi had ties with al-Qaida, he was also charged with lying to obtain immigration benefits for himself, his wife and his two children.

That goes back to the time he spent in a refugee camp in Pakistan, Burnett said. Malkandi finally got an interview with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, and one of his fellow refugees urged him to beef up his story, the lawyer said. “So what he told them was that he had been arrested and jailed in Iran for having religious and political material in his possession.” That was a needless lie, according to Burnett, who noted that Malkandi as a Kurd had ample reason to fear for his life in Iraq under Saddam Hussein.In any event, lying on an asylum application isn’t always grounds for deportation, conceded Lori Haley, an ICE spokeswoman. But the combination of the lie and the alleged connection to al-Qaida was enough to warrant his removal from the country, she said. Being connected to al-Qaida is just not in Malkandi’s character, according to Burnett. “The man’s a Head Start volunteer,” he said, for example. Malkandi also helped train U.S. soldiers headed to Iraq in cultural awareness, he’s active in the Mormon church, and an American flag flies in front of his house, Burnett said. “They’re part of the neighborhood,” he said, adding that more than 70 of the people who know Malkandi wrote the court asking that the man be granted bail. He wasn’t and remains in federal detention.

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