ATLANTA – Choppy homemade videos, a mysterious trek to Bangladesh and ties to a convicted Balkan terrorist are at the center of a federal case against a 23-year-old accused supporting terrorism.
Ehsanul Islam Sadequee could face up to 60 years in prison on four charges that he conspired to help overseas terrorists wage "violent jihad" on America. Jury selection is to begin Monday and the trial is expected to last at least a week.
Sadequee made a series of short videos of the U.S. Capitol and other landmarks with a friend, Syed Ahmed, in April 2005. Prosecutors said the men were "casing" the landmarks, while defense attorneys have downplayed them, calling them silly and juvenile.
The videos helped sway a federal judge in June to convict Ahmed, a 24-year-old former Georgia Tech student who will be sentenced after Sadequee's trial. Ahmed could face up to 15 years in prison.
Sadequee's trial is also likely to focus on other allegations, including claims he ventured to Bangladesh to try to link up with terrorists and sent encrypted videos of the American landmarks to overseas contacts.
Sadequee attorney Don Samuel would not discuss the case, but has said his client will be exonerated.
Investigators, meanwhile, concede the plots never came close to fruition and the men never posed an immediate threat. U.S. Attorney David Nahmias has said authorities intervened before it was too late.
"The fuse that leads to an explosion of violence may be long, but once it is lit — once individuals unlawfully agree to support terrorist acts at home or abroad — we will prosecute them to snuff that fuse out," he said in June after Ahmed was found guilty.
Prosecutors have said Sadequee and Ahmed began preparing for their mission in late 2004 when they headed to a remote location in northwest Georgia armed with paintball guns for basic paramilitary training.
Authorities began building a case against Ahmed and Sadequee — both U.S. citizens — after they took a bus to Toronto in March 2005 and met with at least three other targets of an FBI investigation.
While there, investigators said, Sadequee and Ahmed discussed potential terrorist targets in the U.S., including military bases and oil refineries. They also said the group discussed a way to disrupt the worldwide Global Positioning System.
A month later, the two piled in Ahmed's pickup truck and drove to Washington to shoot footage of U.S. landmarks and other less notable sites, such as a fuel depot and a Masonic Temple in northern Virginia, authorities said.
Sadequee sent at least two of the clips to an overseas contact days after he returned, authorities said, disguising them as "jimmy's 13th birthday party" and "volleyball contest."
Then Sadequee, who was born in Virginia and is of Bangladeshi descent, decided to head abroad himself. Authorities said he departed for Bangladesh in August 2005, where he would get married and attempt to link up with terrorist groups overseas.
While he was abroad, he continued to communicate with Ahmed and other suspected terrorists, authorities said. One of the alleged contacts was Mirsad Bektasevic, a Balkan-born Swede who was convicted in 2007 of planning to blow up an unidentified target in Europe to force the pullout of foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sadequee's mission for the trip, according to prosecutors, was to offer himself as a ready and willing volunteer "in support of violent jihad."
The FBI arrested Sadequee in Bangladesh in April 2006 and he has since been held without bond.