Friday, September 22, 2023
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Family of Accused|Militant Can’t Testify

MANHATTAN (CN) - The British wife, sister, close friend, former boss and mental health counselor of an accused al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula militant cannot boost his insanity defense via closed-circuit TV testimony from across the pond, a federal judge ruled.

Arrested earlier this year, Minh Quang Pham plans to tell a jury that he has bipolar disorder to escape charges of aiding the U.S.-designated terrorist group at his trial on Feb. 1.

Nearly four years ago, British authorities searching Pham at Heathrow International Airport found armor-piercing ammunition associated with a Kalashnikov rifle, according to his indictment.

Pham is believed to have later returned to Yemen, where a government informant claims to have spotted him with two well-known propagandists behind Inspire, a glossy magazine associated with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

The informant claimed to have spotted him with the author of "I Am Proud to be a Traitor to America," an article associated with Pakistani-American Samir Khan, who was killed in a drone strike with New Mexico-born militant Anwar al-Awlaki.

Four people close to Pham paint a very different picture of the Vietnamese Brit accused of turning to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, according to a Dec. 4 order.

Huyan Pham, his sister, says she remembers her brother as "a passive individual [who] never expressed any interest in committing violence or terrorism" and had an "interest in creating a peaceful Muslim Village," court records show.

Unable to obtain a visa to travel to the United States, Pham says that she wants to boost her brother's defense with "testimony concerning mental disorders of family members and physical and emotional abuse sustained," the order states.

Pham's wife Eema Nawaz requested safe passage to travel to the United States to testify on behalf of her husband.

His close friend Lubna Speitan claimed to have a medical condition preventing her from air travel, and his former boss Bola Sobowale did not respond to the court's attempts to reach her to discuss the possibility of testifying.

Mental health professional Rachel Thomas insisted generally that her commitments to her unspecified clinic would keep her too busy to travel to Manhattan Federal Court.

U.S. District Judge Allison Nathan shot down all five excuses in an 8-page order on Friday.

For Pham's sister, the judge ruled that a lay opinion of her brother's mental state was irrelevant for trial.

Rejecting the request of Pham's wife, Nathan wrote, "A court should not order the government to provide a guarantee of safe passage to a witness."

The other three witnesses failed to convince the judge they made a "good faith effort" to testify in person.

Pham's attorney Bobbi Stearnheim did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

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