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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Last Suspect of Oregon ‘Terror Camp’ Arraigned

MANHATTAN (CN) - Haroun Aswat, a 40-year-old British citizen, is the last man standing in the case of a so-called "terror camp" in Oregon that prosecutors from coast to coast have tried to pin down since 1999.

London's reputed "hate cleric" Abu Hamza al-Masri allegedly sent Aswat and other to set up a training camp in Bly, Ore. to prepare Muslim fighters for the fight against the United States, years before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

When a federal jury convicted Hamza earlier this year, Aswat had still been fighting extradition charges in London, where he argued that a schizophrenia diagnosis should bar his prosecution.

Aswat lost that battle before being sent to a New York court on Tuesday, where he denied charges related to the Oregon plot.

Since his indictment a decade ago, prosecutors on both coasts have closed the loop on Aswat's alleged co-conspirators.

The FBI made an informant out of the camp's founder, James Ujaama, who testified against Hamza at this year's trial.

There, Ujaama confirmed that he sent a fax to Hamza explaining why he chose Oregon as the site of the training camp.

"The land that we spoke of is about 160 acres and looks just like Afghanistan with mountains and small trees, dry, hot and cold extreme temperatures," the Oct. 25, 1999 fax stated. "It is 100 percent legal and so are all of our activities. The land is in a state that is a pro-militia and firearms state."

Aswat allegedly arrived there later that year with Oussama Kassir, a Swede whom an Oregon jury convicted on similar charges five years ago.

Although the camp fizzled out within a few months before the turn of the millennium, it spurred a spate of prosecutions that critics contend elevated what a government witness described as a radical Islamic version of the "Cub Scouts" into a national security threat.

The charges against Aswat include conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization - in this case, al Qaeda.

Aswat faces a maximum 35-year sentence if convicted on all charges.

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