Algerian goes on trial in alleged millennium terror plot |

Algerian goes on trial in alleged millennium terror plot

LOS ANGELES – An Algerian who was arrested with a carload of explosives just before New Year’s Eve 1999 went on trial Tuesday on charges of plotting to bomb Seattle and other U.S. cities during the millennium celebrations.

The arrest of Ahmed Ressam was ”a law enforcement success story, a case of a tragedy averted,” federal prosecutor Steven Gonzalez told the jury in opening statements.

Defense attorney Jo Ann Oliver countered that Ressam was unwittingly used a courier for explosives.

”This trial is not going to be about a terrorist bomber,” the federal public defender said. ”This is about a young man who fled war-torn Algeria … a very quiet person, a religious person and probably a gullible person. He was used and evidently abused by his friends and left alone in the United States.”

Ressam was arrested on Dec. 14, 1999, in Port Angeles, Wash., after entering the country by ferry from Canada. Authorities said they found bomb-making materials, including explosives and timing devices, in his rental car.

Ressam, 33, could be sentenced to up to 130 years in prison if convicted of all nine counts against him.

His arrest led Seattle to cancel its millennium party at the Space Needle, and cast a pall over celebrations in other U.S. cities.

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