ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Five suspects arrested at a makeshift compound in New Mexico where a 3-year-old boy was found buried pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal terrorism-related charges that their attorneys said they would otherwise not be facing if they weren't Muslim, reports said.
Jany Leveille, 36, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, Subhanah Wahhaj, 36, and Lucas Morton, 41, were allegedly keeping 11 children in deplorable conditions on the property located in Amalia, just south of the Colorado border, Albuquerque's KRQE-TV reported. Authorities raided the compound in August, when they found the remains of Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, 3, who suffered from severe medical disabilities that caused seizures.
The suspects are accused of training the children to carry out attacks against government institutions, including U.S. law enforcement officers and military members, the station reported. They also face kidnapping charges, to which they also pleaded not guilty.
“In or about December 2017, in the District of Georgia, Jany Leveille and Lucas Morton solicited one of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj’s relatives to join the occupants of the training compound in the state of New Mexico, to bring money and firearms, and to die as a martyr,” prosecutors with the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section wrote, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The suspects have been in federal custody on firearms charges that accuse them of conspiring to provide weapons and ammunition to Leveille, one of the five and a leader of the group who is from Haiti and had been living in the country illegally.
"This case is about freedom of religion, freedom of association and the right to bear arms," said Billy Blackburn, an attorney for Subhanah Wahhaj. He and other defense attorneys said their clients are innocent of the charges.
The deceased 3-year-old boy had been reported missing in Georgia in late 2017 and died at the compound after he was denied medication because Leveille believed it suppressed Muslim beliefs, authorities said.
She and the boy's father, Siraj Ibn, had held hours-long prayer rituals over the boy in the days leading to his death.
The results of an autopsy for the boy are still pending.
All, except Wahhaj, are charged in the kidnapping of his son, as federal statutes generally only allow for charging parents with abducting their own children in international cases.
Authorities also have accused Wahhaj and others of transporting weapons across state lines, and training children at a firing range on the property to carry out shootings and other attacks that never occurred.
The 11 children, ages 1 to 15, were placed in the custody of the state's Children, Youth and Families Department, the Journal reported.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, Subhanah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahhaj are siblings, and their father is a prominent imam at the Masjid At-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn, N.Y., according to the paper.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj is married to Leveille, and Subhanah Wahhaj is married to Morton, the report said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.