Monday, September 25, 2023
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Plea Likely in Oregon ‘Terror Camp’ Case

MANHATTAN (CN) - After more than 15 years, the last defendant standing in the case of the so-called Oregon "terror camp" may plead out his charges, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

"We have an agreement, in principle at least," attorney Peter Quijano told a federal judge, alluding to talks with his client Haroon Aswat.

If the deal falls apart, Aswat, a 40-year-old Brit, will stand trial on June 1 for allegedly helping to set up a training camp for Muslim fighters in Bly, Ore., in 1999.

The camp disbanded a few months after its creation, and it has not been associated with any terrorist attacks. Prosecutors across the United States nevertheless have pursued its leaders ever since their indictments by a grand jury in 2004.

A year before that indictment, the camp's founder, James Ujaama, pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions by trying to support the Taliban through the training camp. Ujaama had previously been an esteemed writer and entrepreneur in Seattle, and the admission turned him into a key informant in subsequent terrorism prosecutions.

Aswat's Swedish co-defendant, Oussama Kassir, has been serving a life sentence after his conviction five years ago by an Oregon jury.

London's reputed "hate cleric" Abu Hamza received his life sentence for this and other conspiracies last year.

Ujaama had testified that Hamza sent Aswat and Kassir to create the camp.

The last of the alleged participants, Aswat lost an extradition battle late last year at the European Court of Human Rights, where he unsuccessfully argued that his schizophrenia diagnosis should bar his U.S. prosecution.

Neither of the parties specified Tuesday what the terms of any deal may be.

Adel Abdel Bary, another Brit prosecuted for terrorism charges in New York, recently copped to a plea deal in an unrelated case that allowed for the time he spent fighting extradition to count as time served, under a treaty between the two governments.

The terms of that deal could reduce what would have been a 25-year sentence for Bary to an eight-year one.

Aswat faces a maximum 35-year sentence if convicted on all of the four charges against him.

The parties are expected to report to U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest before the end of the month.

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