The trial of ex-Navy signalman Hassan Abu-jihaad took merely a week, ending with the bang of a one-day deliberation in which Connecticut jurors found the man guilty, sending him over for providing material support to terrorists.
The prosecution employed a strategy in which the jury was shown videotapes Abu-jihaad was said to have purchased from Azzam Publications in 2000 and 2001. The orders for videos were recovered from the computer in Babar Ahmad's bedroom at his parent's house in Upper Tooting, London, in 2003. It was explained that the US government obtained the e-mails in fragmentary fashion, requoted in replies from Azzam Publications.
The videos showed jihadis killing Russians in Chechnya and it was argued that in purchasing them, Abu-jihaad showed a predilection for martyrdom and that he materially aided an agency that was supporting terror. When e-mail about Abu-jihaad's battle group was sent to Azzam, it was said to be a demonstration that the author, presumably Abu-jihaad, wanted harm to be inflicted upon it.
"Prosecutors [said] the videos, which also showed Osama bin Laden, [were] important evidence because they [proved] not only that Abu-Jihaad leaked the ship details but intended to kill Americans by sending the information to those who promoted terrorism, reported the Associated Press on February 26. "They say the videos depict martyrdom, explaining why Abu-Jihaad would allow his own ship to be targeted."
From the beginning, the government's case was not strong. It could not forensically link Abu-jihaad to the e-mails recovered from the computer of Babar Ahmad, who is officially regarded in the States as a terrorist awaiting extradition. However, it sought the means to allow a jury to infer that the recovered e-mails were, in fact, Abu-jihaad's. This seemed obvious and Abu-jihaad's defense relied on an ultimately futile argument that the information on the Navy battle group passed to Azzam was not sensitive.
All of the transmissions to Azzam occurred prior to 9/11. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2002, long before the materials were found on Ahmad's computer and, quite obviously, well after the Navy battle group had passed through the Straits of Hormuz without incident. After 2004, the US government began surveilling Abu-jihaad and eventually placed an informant next to him in connection with another case, that of a man already convicted of terror conspiracy, Derrick Shareef.
In previous stories on pre-trial maneuvering, the emails to Azzam were analyzed in detail and it was the opinion here that, generally, they did not contain information that "could have doomed" (as assessed by AP) the destroyer Benfold, the ship Abu-jihaad served on. Certainly their content was of ugly tone, easily interpreted as the utterances of someone who was radicalized, insulting to US Navy officers and loose with praise for martyrs.
Although the writer attested to being a "brother serving a kuffar nation," the writer never called for an attack on the Benfold. These were thought crimes only. However, intimations of messing with the American military, particularly when serving in it, along with gruesome video, are incendiary stuff in American courtrooms. And the jury immediately linked Abu-jihaad to the transmissions and thought harshly of his intent.
The government deployed its professional witness, Evan Kohlmann, to dub Azzam an instrument of al Qaeda in its distribution of the usually cited materials regarding training and support for holy war.
The prosecution also brought forward the retired commander of Abu-jihaad's battle group, Rear Admiral David Hart, Jr. Hart testified that the information sent to Azzam was highly sensitive and had he known of the emails, he would have changed the time of the battle group's operation. The battle group did not however pass through the Straits of Hormuz on the day indicated in the email to Azzam anyway. As for the "diagram" of the formation emailed to Azzam, it was deemed inaccurate. In the original, two submarines were shown straddling part of the formation. Hart called this "tactically unfeasible," according to the Associated Press.
A vulnerability of units in the battle group said to be revealed in the email was also called incorrect by another Navy man. The emails were apparently full of small errors. Interestingly, a shipmate of Abu-jihaad's said the defendant showed him one of the Azzam-sold videotapes of Chechen rebels attacking Russians while on the Benfold.
None of this mattered. American juries are proven liable to convict anyone who can even be remotely connected with Islamic radicalism. That Abu-jihaad, in over half a decade, never did anything which physically harmed his country was irrelevant. A race element is also in play. The outsider other - anyone not white, Muslim and not well to do - is viewed as an enemy.
Babar Ahmad, coincidentally and unnoticed by US sources, was back in the news over the Milton Keynes prison bugging scandal in which he and Tooting Muslim Labour MP Sadiq Khan were bugged under orders from Scotland Yard senior officials during a visit to the jail by the latter. How this might effect Ahmad's being shipped to the States, if at all, is difficult to assess. But it is now fairly safe to predict that Ahmad will be quickly convicted in the same court once he is extradited. At which point he will be tossed in a US dungeon for close to life.