DETROIT, March 27 (UPI) -- Testimony begins Friday in the trial of Detroit-area four men accused of being members of a terrorist sleeper cell.
The trial is the first resulting from the post-Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism investigation. U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen declined to postpone the trial because of the war in Iraq.
In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard G. Convertino said the case is not about "young Arab men coming to the United to live the American dream." Rather, it "is about deception, dedication and destruction."
The government has accused Karim Koubriti, 24, Ahmed Hannan, 34, Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 22 and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, 37, of being members of a sleeper cell that planned violent attacks on such targets as a U.S. air base in Turkey and Las Vegas.
They allegedly talked about obtaining Stinger missiles to shoot down airplanes and planned to recruit others to their cause. Convertino said prosecutors can prove Elmardoudi received $1,200 from Amsterdam to buy computer equipment for creating false documents.
Elmardoudi's attorney, William Swor, ridiculed the government's case.
"Wow, deception, dedication and destruction -- it's more like much ado about nothing," he said. "Deception will come not from the defense but from the government."
James Thomas, Hannan's attorney, said the opening statement is going to be the best part of the government's case.
Defense attorneys allege the government's case is based on a single witness, Youssef Hmimssa, who is lying to secure a shorter prison sentence. Hmimssa, 37, a Moroccan immigrant, is accused of fraud and misuse of visas in Detroit and credit card fraud in Chicago.
Convertino described Hmimssa as a crook who declined to be recruited into the terrorist cause.
Defense attorney Robert Morgan said the dayplanner containing a sketch of the U.S. air base in Incirlik, Turkey, found in the apartment shared by three of the defendants did not belong to any of them, but to a now-dead Yemeni immigrant who had been diagnosed as mentally ill. Morgan said the defendants did not even know him.
The jury of 12 woman and four men, including four alternates, is made up of seven blacks and nine whites. Three of the jurors are Catholic and six are Protestant. The rest did not list a religious affiliation. Five are college graduates and all but one of the others graduated from high school. Among the jurors is a 30-year-old casino worker, a 27-year-old optician and a 62-year-old homemaker. The identities of the jurors are to be kept secret for security purposes.
They were chosen from a panel of 47 potential jurors selected from the 200 originally called. Each filled out a 27-page questionnaire.
Forged immigration and other documents were found in the Dearborn, Mich., apartment shared by Koubriti, Hannan and Ali-Haimoud. The apartment is in an area home to an estimated 220,000 Arab immigrants and Arab-Americans.
The apartment had been occupied by Nabil al-Marabh, a former Boston cabbie initially believed linked to al-Qaida. Al-Marabh later was arrested in the Chicago area and deported to Syria after investigators decided he had no terrorism links.
Elmardoudi, who was living in Minneapolis, was accused of planning to help train Muslim "brothers" for attacks. He was implicated by Hmimssa.
The four were among 1,200 people detained in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Most were cleared but at least 750 were charged with immigration violations.