Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Fort Dix prosecutors rest; case could reach jury next week

All along, defense attorneys in the Fort Dix terrorism case have said their clients never had the intent or the ability to carry out an attack on the Army base.

All along, defense attorneys in the Fort Dix terrorism case have said their clients never had the intent or the ability to carry out an attack on the Army base.

Yesterday, as the prosecution wrapped up its case, a counterterrorism expert agreed that "it's tough to really assess how sophisticated people are until they carry out an attack."

But the expert, Evan Kohlmann, cautioned that "you don't have to be very sophisticated to kill people." Look at the recent attacks in Mumbai, India, he said.

"Guys who have very simple weapons and a very simple plan can cause a lot of damage," he said.

The prosecution has argued that the five defendants, all foreign-born Muslim men raised in South Jersey, had a simple plan - to use a pizza-delivery pass to get on the base and open fire on soldiers.

With the prosecution resting yesterday, the case could be in the hands of the anonymously chosen jurors as early as next week.

Defense attorneys said yesterday that their clients would not testify, and that they would need only this morning to present a handful of witnesses.

The jurors are to be given their instructions on the law tomorrow, with closing arguments slated for Monday and Tuesday. The jurors will be sequestered during their deliberations.

Prosecutors have said the defendants were inspired to plan an attack by al-Qaeda propaganda videos and radical Islamic lectures they downloaded from the Internet.

Kohlmann, a researcher, writer and analyst, said videos found on two of the defendants' computers were "some of the classics put out by these organizations."

Jurors have watched many of the videos found on hard drives belonging to Eljvir Duka and Mohamad Shnewer, including what Kohlmann described as Hollywood-quality productions created by al-Sahab, the media wing of al-Qaeda.

Kohlmann, who has testified at two military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said al-Qaeda had become smaller and more isolated since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

Instead of luring fighters to Afghanistan to train for jihad, the terrorist network has turned to the Internet to incite and instruct would-be mujahideen to carry out attacks on their own.

"If you believe in what we believe in, you can become a part of us without ever speaking to us once," Kohlmann said, explaining al-Qaeda's pitch. "This has now become a philosophy."

In this way, he said, al-Qaeda has inspired attacks around the world, carried out by individuals with no connection to the network other than "as an ideology."

That's what prosecutors said was brewing in South Jersey - an attack perpetrated by American-raised men who had no actual connection to al-Qaeda.

In conversations two FBI informants secretly recorded, the men talked incessantly about jihad and weapons, whether they were ready to commit to fighting, and how they could join the armed struggle of Muslim fighters.

Kohlmann agreed that given the videos and lectures the defendants were watching, and the attitudes they expressed in the recordings, "you're dealing with a recipe for disaster."

The defendants - Shnewer, Serdar Tatar, and brothers Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka - could face life in prison if convicted of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers.

As they have throughout the trial, defense attorneys argued yesterday that the men never formulated an actual plan of attack, and that some of the defendants often were unaware of what the others were doing.

Shnewer, for example, did not know that Dritan and Shain Duka had arranged to buy guns.

Kohlmann said that this was the case in many terrorist plots he had studied. He said he had seen plots that percolated for five years before the conspirators developed a cohesive plan of action.

"Once you've incited them . . . the rest is relatively easy," he said. "Convincing someone to sacrifice themselves for a political cause is the hard part."