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6 Indicted in Buffalo-Area Terror Case

October 22, 2002|John J. Goldman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Six Arab American men who allegedly attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan were indicted Monday by a federal grand jury on charges that they provided material support and resources to Al Qaeda.

The defendants were arrested last month near Buffalo, N.Y., amid allegations that they belonged to a sleeper cell awaiting orders from Osama bin Laden.

The Justice Department's announcement that an Al Qaeda cell was operating in New York state instantly focused worldwide attention on the Yemeni American community in Lackawanna, a small steel town outside Buffalo.

Named in the two-count indictment, which also included a conspiracy charge, were Yahya Goba, 25; Shafal Mosed, 24; Yasein Taher, 24; Faysal Galab, 26; Mukhtar al-Bakri, 22; and Sahim Alwan, 29.

The indictments contained no new information, aside from the charges, but allowed prosecutors to proceed without a preliminary hearing, where they would have been required to present some of their evidence.

Defense lawyers said the men would plead not guilty at an arraignment today in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.

If convicted, they could face a maximum of 25 years in prison.

James P. Harrington, who represents Alwan, the only defendant to be granted bail, said defense lawyers now face a collective decision: how to investigate the government's charges.

At the same time, he noted, each of the lawyers needs to look after the interests of the person he represents.

"As much as we have common interests, we will stick together," Harrington said. "But each person has to individually represent their own clients."

Prosecutors did not return calls for comment after the indictments were made public.

Supporters claim that the defendants are victims of anti-Muslim propaganda and have sought to frame the case in the context of a key test of the Bush administration's prosecution of terrorism suspects.

In a preview of the prosecution's strategy for a trial not expected until sometime next year, government lawyers charged that the defendants clandestinely traveled halfway around the world to participate in a camp run by Bin Laden's organization.

Court papers previously filed by the government said staff members at the Al Farook camp near Kandahar tried to recruit suicide bombers, and that Bin Laden lectured at the facility on June 6, 2001, that "there is going to be a fight against Americans."

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