NEW YORK – A Washington, D.C., cab driver, a Florida doctor and a Bronx jazz musician have pleaded not guilty to charges they conspired to help terrorist organizations.
Taxi driver Mahmud Faruq Brent, of Gwynn Oak, Md., smiled and waved at family members and friends before entering his plea in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday.
Seated in the jury box with Brent were defendants, Tarik Shah, 42, and Dr. Rafiq Abdus Sabir, 50. The defendants remained held without bail.
Hassen Ibn Abdellah, Brent's defense lawyer, said he had seen little of the case besides the four-page indictment accusing Brent of conspiring to help the Lashkar-e-Taiba organization, which the U.S. designated a terrorist organization in December 2001.
"I'm hoping the evidence is as short as the indictment," Abdellah said outside court after his brief pretrial appearance. Brent was arrested in August.
Shah and Sabir, both arrested in May, entered not guilty pleas Wednesday to charges they conspired to aid Al Qaeda.
The government has said that Shah told investigators after his arrest that he trained Brent in martial arts while they lived in Beacon, N.Y., in 2001 and that they often watched martial arts training videos and videos about holy war, or jihad, in Bosnia.
"The idea that members of Al Qaeda need somebody from the Bronx to teach martial arts is ridiculous," said Shah's lawyer, Anthony Ricco.
Edward Wilford, a lawyer for Sabir, said the government's case against his client was weak: "We believe he'll be exonerated," he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor Hou told Judge Loretta Preska the government would rely on evidence gleaned from the computers of the defendants as well as firearms, videotapes and taped conversations.
Prosecutors say that during one taped conversation at a hotel in Columbia, Md., Brent indicated he had traveled to Pakistan and into the mountains for training "and stuff" with "the mujahideen, the fighters."