DETROIT – A former terrorism suspect testified Wednesday that the government's key witness against four men accused of conspiring to support terrorism wanted revenge against the defendants.
But Omar Shishani said Youssef Hmimssa never said anything to him about whether he would lie to incriminate the men.
"I just want to get revenge. They stole from me. They ruined my life," Shishani recalled Hmimssa telling him at a federal detention center in Milan, where they both were housed in February.
Under cross-examination, the government tried to attack Shishani's credibility and said he had offered to help the government in exchange for being released on bond. Shishani also said at one point he told the FBI that he had worked with the CIA, which wasn't the case.
In an unrelated case last month, Shishani, 48, pleaded guilty in federal court to possession of $12 million in counterfeit cashier's checks. Shishani was arrested July 17 after authorities said he carried bogus cashier's checks with him when he arrived at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on a flight from Indonesia.
He was investigated for possible ties to terrorism, but he wasn't indicted on terrorism charges. His attorney claims he was branded a terrorist because of his Middle Eastern name and because he was swept up in the hysteria after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Shishani, who was freed on bond following his plea, said he met Hmimssa twice while in custody before talking to him about the terrorism case through slots used to serve food to the inmates.
Shishani also said he met defendant Ahmed Hannan in March in a federal court lockup in Detroit, where Hannan asked Shishani whether he had met Hmimssa and asked Shishani for help. Shishani said he came forward with his claims about Hmimssa because his conscience wouldn't let him sit idle.
Hannan, Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, Karim Koubriti and Farouk Ali-Haimoud are charged with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists. Their trial is the first in the United States for an alleged terror cell detected following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Hmimssa, who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges in three states, has testified that the four men wanted to use his experience in credit card and document fraud to support Islamic extremist efforts and spoke of attacks on the United States.
Defense lawyers argued that Hmimssa is a liar.
Testimony from more defense witnesses continues Friday.
Earlier Wednesday, a defense expert testified that audio tapes found in the raid were critical of Islamic extremism. The analysis by Wael Hallaq, a scholar of Islamic law, contradicted the government's claims that the more than 100 tapes espouse violence against Christians and Jews.
"He is against those who promote or condone violence," Hallaq, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, said of the speaker on the tapes.
Prosecutors questioned Hallaq about why he didn't listen to more than a few of the tapes and relied on translations provided by the defense for some other parts of his analysis. But he stood by his evaluation that the tapes represented nonviolent teachings.