CAMDEN, N.J. – A judge on Tuesday opened the possibility that the five men charged with plotting an attack on the Army's Fort Dix could be freed on bail as they await trial.
The men had previously been denied bail, but their lawyers say the situation has changed because the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia is not giving the suspects adequate access to recordings they need to review in preparation for trial.
In legal papers filed over the past week, the men asked to be moved from the Special Housing Unit, where they've been held since their arrests in May.
The men have complained that they were not being given enough time to review audio and video recordings that the government may use as evidence against them.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler on Tuesday scheduled a Dec. 20 hearing where lawyers can make their case for bail. He said he could also consider an arrangement in which the men could be taken to their lawyers' offices during the day to review material in the case.
One lawyer said in court that his client had not been allowed to go to the conference room to review the recordings at all since Oct. 31; another said his client had made 20 requests since then, but had been allowed to review the recordings only once.
Just Monday, lawyers for the men said that some of them were allowed to share cells so they could discuss their cases.
Kugler said he would consider bail, but he was not sympathetic to the men's complaints about life behind bars.
"There are over 1,200 inmates there," he said. "Your clients don't have their own personal corrections officers" to answer all their needs.
The men — brothers Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka; Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer; and Serdar Tatar — have complained about food at the facility and treatment by guards, among other issues.
The five, all foreign-born and in their 20s, were charged in May with planning a raid on Fort Dix. They face life in prison if convicted of conspiring to murder military personnel. A sixth man pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to provide weapons to the group. No attack was ever staged on the base, which is being used largely to train reservists bound for Iraq.
Government lawyers said Tuesday that they plan to add some weapons charges against some of the men.
A trial has been scheduled for March 24.