SACRAMENTO — An attorney for a young Lodi man standing trial on accusations of attending an Al Qaeda training camp painted Hamid Hayat on Thursday as a braggart whose lies about terrorism duped an FBI informant who is key to the government's case.
Naseem Khan, a convenience store manager turned paid government informant, admitted during a day on the stand that he fell for several fibs that the 23-year-old Hayat told him.
Hayat told Khan that he had once joined a Taliban attack that never took place and spent time in a Pakistani prison.
Khan, 32, acknowledged that he believed Hayat's stories about a Pakistani political party that didn't exist, yarns about terrorists using pay phones to communicate and claims that a relative was among the leadership of a radical opposition group.
Hayat's attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, contends that the tales Hayat voiced over months in chats with Khan were fabrications meant to impress the older man, who pretended to be an Islamic zealot.
Hayat, a U.S. citizen who has spent half his life in his family's native Pakistan, is charged with material support of terrorist activity and three counts of lying to FBI agents about it. He faces up to 39 years in prison.
His father, Umer Hayat, is charged with two counts of lying to the FBI, and, if convicted, could spend up to 16 years behind bars. Both men confessed after hours of interrogation by the FBI.
Mojaddidi said the younger Hayat was pressured during two days of interrogation in June 2005 and told agents what they wanted to hear without realizing the consequences.
A big piece of the government's case has been hundreds of hours of secretly recorded conversations and telephone calls between Hayat and Khan, who was recruited by FBI agents who visited him in Bend, Ore., a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Hayat and Khan met in the summer of 2002 and over the next year had extensive contacts. Khan visited Hayat's home at least a dozen times and talked with him frequently on the phone -- all the time surreptitiously recording the conversations.
"We just met," Khan told jurors. "I was not out there looking for him or anything."
Khan, a Pakistani native who immigrated with his mother when he was in his teens, testified Thursday that he received no training from the FBI. Khan, who was paid more than $200,000 by the FBI, said he does not consider himself a devout Muslim and was unfamiliar with the political activity in Pakistan.
"I never made any decisions," Khan said from the stand. "It was the FBI's decision where to go and what to do. They made all the decisions."
Mojaddidi, who suggested during opening arguments that the government's case was based in part on cultural ignorance, asked Khan if he believed Hayat when he suggested that radical Pakistani groups were using pay phones to communicate.
Khan said he had. Mojaddidi, however, said there was no public pay phone system in Pakistan.
Mojaddidi then recounted several other tales Hayat had told the FBI informant that she suggested had no basis in fact: that a Hayat relative had a close relationship to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, that a prominent Pakistani opposition leader has ties to terrorist training camps, and that Hayat's father, a naturalized U.S. citizen who drove an ice-cream truck in Lodi, frequently sent money to Pakistani political groups.
In one conversation, Hayat told Khan that radical Pakistani opposition groups maintain secret branches in every U.S. state.
"Isn't it true most of what Hamid told you was speculation?" Mojaddidi asked.
"I wouldn't know," Khan quietly answered.