Reaching Across Pond for Terrorism Witnesses
MANHATTAN (CN) - London courts must help accused terrorists in New York secure reluctant witnesses, including two British intelligence agents and a rental agent for al-Qaida's former office space near Queen's Park, a judge ruled.
Adel Abdel Bary has been in U.S. custody since his extradition from the United Kingdom last year. He was charged in New York for, among other things, conspiring with Osama bin Laden on the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Combined, these attacks killed 224 people, and injured many more.
Abdel Bary and his alleged co-conspirator Khalid Al Fawwaz pleaded not guilty and will stand trial this year.
Al Fawwaz, with Bary as a witness to the lease, allegedly rented office space for al-Qaida's Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC) at 1A Beethoven Street on or about Sept. 4, 1997.
The U.K. property website Zoopla lists the value of neighboring properties to this address, located a 10-minute walk away from the Queens Park tube stop, at roughly $835,000.
Prosecutors say Al Fawwaz and Bary helped disseminate bin Laden's 1996 Declaration of Jihad from the same location.
Al Fawwaz asserts that two MI5 agents know that he disavowed his association with the ARC, which he says used to be a peaceful nongovernmental group, after he learned about bin Laden's declaration.
The defense has been unable, however, to locate or reach those two agents, Paul Banner and his replacement, Al Fawwaz says.
He also says Naomi Wood, the property's rental agent, has been "uncooperative and has not responded to numerous telephone calls" from his lawyer.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled Tuesday that he would help secure these witnesses by issuing letters rogatory, a formal request for a foreign court for judicial assistance.
Kaplan also allowed the deposition of Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of an Arab language newspaper, about Al Fawwaz's reaction to bin Laden's declaration.
Atwan is expected to testify that Al Fawwaz was in a "state of shock" from the announcement, but he refuses to appear in court because the U.S. denied clearance for him to travel to Brown University to make a speech, according to Kaplan's ruling.
Kaplan did not allow five other witnesses to testify that the ARC was a peaceful organization before that announcement, finding their opinions about the organization immaterial.
He also rejected Bary's attempt to call his brother and U.K. counsel as witnesses.