NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Federal prosecutors want a man convicted in a failed 2001 shoe bomb plot to bring down an airplane to testify at the sentencing of two British citizens who pleaded guilty in Connecticut to supporting terrorists through websites.
The testimony reflects an effort by prosecutors to show that Babar Ahmad, one of the two men facing sentencing in Connecticut, had an active role in sending recruits to terrorism training camps beyond appealing for support on the websites.
Prosecutors say the witness is expected to testify that Ahmad sent him to Afghanistan to train for violent jihad and that he ultimately moved on from Ahmad and came under the mentorship and training of al-Qaida members who prepared him for the shoe bomb plot. The man also is expected to testify that he saw nearly two dozen others that Ahmad sent from the United Kingdom to train in Afghanistan, and he would describe camping trips and training exercises that Ahmad organized in England to groom recruits for violent jihad abroad, prosecutors said.
"Ahmad's conduct went beyond cyberspace and included real world effects and consequences flowing from the criminal activity, regardless of the media used to plan, coordinate and execute some of the conduct," prosecutors wrote in court papers last week, citing his efforts to send people to Afghanistan to train for violent jihad and emails discussing night vision goggles and safe routes into Afghanistan.
Ahmad's attorneys say they'll respond in court objecting to the request to have the man testify by a videotaped deposition.
Prosecutors didn't name the man they want to testify, but his description matches that of Saajid Badat, a British citizen whose videotaped testimony was shown at the 2012 New York City trial of a man convicted in a foiled plot to attack the New York City subway system in 2009. A spokesman for the prosecutors declined to comment to The Associated Press on the witness's identity.
Badat was convicted in London in a plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes. He said at that trial that he refused a request to testify in person in the U.S. because he remains under indictment in Boston on charges he conspired with failed shoe bomber Richard Reid and has been told he'd be arrested if he set foot in the United States.
Prosecutors said the man they want to testify at Ahmad's sentencing had testified by videotape at the trial for the foiled subway plot, was indicted in Massachusetts on charges related to the shoe bomb plot, refuses to testify in the U.S. and expects to be arrested upon arrival in the country.
Reid was caught aboard a plane with explosives; Badat backed out.
Badat was sentenced to 13 years in prison. But British authorities later said that in 2009, a judge secretly reduced his sentence to 11 years to reward him for his cooperation in terror investigations.
Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan pleaded guilty in December to terrorism charges. Ahmad admitted he sought recruits, cash and equipment such as gas masks for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan through the websites.
The two men, who were living in Britain at the time, faced charges in Connecticut because authorities said they used an Internet service provider in the state to run one of the websites.
A prosecutor said Ahsan traveled to Afghanistan with Ahmad's assistance to fight and attend a training camp run by al-Qaida, but Ahsan didn't admit that.
The cooperating witness, believed to be Badat, is expected to testify that Ahmad originally recruited and radicalized him before sending him to the camp in Afghanistan. He said he took an explosives training class with Ahsan and stayed at a safe house in Kandahar in January 2001 during which Osama bin Laden visited the location multiple times, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors acknowledge that Ahmad and Ashan will dispute his testimony.
"Accordingly, it is important for the court to hear from the witness to make its own assessment, to understand the full scope and nature of the defendants' conduct supporting terrorists, and ultimately, to resolve significant anticipated factual disputes in connection with sentencing," prosecutors wrote.
Ahmad faces up to 25 years in prison and Ahsan faces up to 15 when they are sentenced in July.