Credibility key question in terrorist case
NEW YORK (AP) – The credibility of two key prosecution witnesses dominated closing arguments in the trial of an Algerian accused of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.
Both informants have been convicted for their roles in the alleged plot to plant a suitcase bomb at the airport in the busy days leading up to Jan. 1, 2000.
The federal jury ended its first day of deliberations without a verdict and was to resume Friday morning. Mokhtar Haouari faces up to 100 years in prison if convicted on terrorism and fraud charges.
Defense attorney Daniel J. Ollen told jurors Wednesday that one of the witnesses, Ahmed Ressam, ”would blow your brains out because your beliefs do not coincide with his.”
Ressam and Abdel Ghani Meskini ”are the heart and the soul of the government’s case,” Ollen said. ”And it’s sadly ironic when the heart and soul of your case has neither heart or soul.”
Earlier, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Baker urged the jury to believe the testimony of Ressam and Meskini. Baker acknowledged in her closing arguments that the witnesses were flawed, but insisted their testimony was honest.
”We’re not asking you to give them an award for good citizenship,” she said.
The bomb plot was foiled when Ressam was arrested crossing the Canadian border in a car with a trunk full of explosives in December 1999.
Prosecutors said Haouari, 32, helped Ressam obtain fake identification and gave him $3,000 to purchase bomb-making chemicals. Although Haouari didn’t know the target, he knew Ressam was on a terrorist mission, prosecutors said.
”The defendant played an important part in what could have been a terrible tragedy,” Baker said. She said the trial testimony, along with phone records, phony documents and bogus drivers’ licenses, provided a ”jigsaw puzzle” of solid evidence.
Ollen accused the prosecution witnesses of ”tailoring testimony to fit the facts.”
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