TOLEDO, Ohio – Jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of three men charged with plotting to recruit and train terrorists to attack U.S. and allied troops overseas.
Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi and Wassim I. Mazloum are accused of conspiring to kill or maim people outside the United States, including military personnel in Iraq. They have all pleaded not guilty.
Federal prosecutors say the men, who live in Ohio, attended a Muslim convention in Cleveland during the summer of 2004 where they talked about training in explosives, guns and sniper tactics.
The men were there with a former U.S. military man who worked undercover and helped foil the plot, said Gregg Sofer, a justice department attorney.
At the convention, the men discussed a five-year plan to carry out their mission, Sofer said during a bond hearing last April.
Two Chicago-area cousins who also are accused of taking part are scheduled to face trial next year. All are U.S. citizens except Mazloum, who came to the U.S. legally from Lebanon.
The five allegedly sought recruits and sites for training in firearms, hand-to-hand combat and the use of explosives, according to a federal indictment.
They also are accused of agreeing to raise funds for training and of downloading Internet information on improvised explosive devices.
The U.S. veteran identified in court documents only as "the trainer" was working undercover and is expected to provide the key testimony for prosecutors. The former military man taught the three others how to shoot guns and build explosives, the government says.
The men face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.
Attorneys for the men declined to comment. They have said in the past that the government's informant overreached and instigated the investigation. They also have argued that the men will not be able to get a fair trial given the publicity the case has received.
The three also were charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Amawi was charged with verbally threatening the president of the United States and unlawful distribution of a video about suicide bomber vests.
Amawi and El-Hindi also were charged with distributing information about explosive chemicals downloaded from the Internet.