Even though the family of "Fort Dix Six" defendant Agron Abdullahu and a friend said they would put up their homes to secure bail for him, a federal judge in Camden yesterday nixed the 24-year-old New Jersey man's request for bail and ordered him held behind bars.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider said at the end of a 3 1/2-hour bail hearing that "no condition or combination of conditions exist to assure" that Abdullahu would appear at his trial if he were freed on bail.
Abdullahu, of Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, is charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigrants in possessing firearms.
Five other defendants are charged with conspiring to kill uniformed military personnel.
The six men were arrested May 7 after federal authorities learned of an alleged plot to kill soldiers at the Fort Dix military base in Burlington County.
The U.S. government alleges that Abdullahu, a permanent legal resident and ethnic Albanian who came to this country from Kosovo, had supplied weapons to three of the other defendants who are illegal immigrants - brothers Dritan Duka, 28, Shain Duka, 26, and Eljvir Duka, 23, of Cherry Hill.
Yesterday, Abdullahu's parents, his sister and a former boss testified on his behalf. Abdullahu, who worked as a baker at a ShopRite in Gloucester County, was considered the family breadwinner.
"He is the father of the family," his father, Sejdulla Abdullahu, testified. The whole family misses him, even his dog, he added. "He loves even animal," his father said.
"His dog is screaming every day he is not home. They are like two dogs. Or two men."
Abdullahu's mother, Vaxhide Abdullahu, testified that her son, the oldest of her four children, was born in 1982 and lived his first six years in Presevo, Serbia, in what was then Yugoslavia. The family then moved to Gilan, Kosovo, where they lived until 1999.
When the Serbian government, which a decade earlier had taken control of Kosovo, began killing ethnic Albanians, "we leave Gilan because we wanted to save our lives," she testified, assisted by an Albanian interpreter. "There was a Serb onslaught, killing and shooting on women and children at that time."
Contrary to government allegations and some media reports, Abdullahu was never a sniper in Kosovo, his mother said. "No. Just child. He was just 16" in 1999, she said.
The family, according to a court filing by public defender Lisa Evans Lewis, had fled Kosovo in 1999 by walking 30 miles to a refugee camp in Macedonia. Through a lottery system, they secured travel documents to go to the United States. Their first stop here was Fort Dix, which gave temporary shelter to refugees.
Abdullahu, shackled at his feet and wearing an olive-green jumpsuit, told the judge: "I would never do nothing to harm this country. I would never harm, never. I would never bite the hand that fed me."
Earlier, his sister, Ylberin Abdullahu, 21, testified that he had learned a lot about how things worked by reading. He was good at fixing cars, she said. He also learned about boats and planes.
At one point, she broke down, crying on the stand. "Yeah, we miss him. I try to do the bills . . . and I can't. Yes, we need him."
A friend, Raymond Million Jr., a former supervisor at the ShopRite in New Jersey where Abdullahu worked, testified that he would put up part of the value of his Jersey home for Abdullahu's bail because "he's my friend."
Abdullahu's relatives said they also would put up their home. His father said he could pay $5,000.
Deputy U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick argued that Abdullahu is a danger to the community and a flight risk. Federal authorities, he said, found four firearms in Abdullahu's house the night he was arrested: an SKS semiautomatic rifle, a Beretta Storm semi-automatic rifle, a Mossberg 12-gauge pump shotgun and a 9mm Beretta handgun.
Abdullahu, who has a firearms license, obtained some, if not all, the firearms legally, his lawyer said.
Prosecutors contend that Abdullahu went with the Duka brothers and other men to a Poconos firing range in January 2006 and February 2007. He supplied weapons and taught them how to shoot, prosecutors allege. During the February trip, Abdullahu also shared his knowledge of bomb-making, prosecutors contend.
"He did this knowing the Dukas' animosity toward the United States," Fitzpatrick argued, "knowing they were watching jihadist videos . . . He knew that and he got their weapons, hid their weapons . . . "
In arguing for $150,000 bail to be set for Abdullahu, who she said could then be put under house arrest with electronic surveillance, Evans Lewis contended that Abdullahu, a gun hobbyist like "millions of Americans," had gone to the Poconos as part of his annual vacation. *