NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A man convicted in a failed 2001 shoe-bomb plot to bring down an airplane will be allowed to testify at the sentencing of two British citizens who pleaded guilty in Connecticut to supporting terrorists through websites.
Judge Janet Hall in New Haven on Monday granted prosecutors' request to have the witness testify by video from Britain. She ordered the government to pay travel expenses of attorneys for defendants Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan to attend the deposition.
Prosecutors say the witness is expected to testify that Ahmad sent him to Afghanistan to train for violent jihad and that he moved on from Ahmad and was trained by al-Qaida members 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, prosecutors said.
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 trial of a man convicted in a foiled 2009 plot to attack the New York City subway system. Badat also testified last week in New York City at the ongoing trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law.
Badat was convicted in London in a failed plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison that was later reduced to 11 years to reward him for his cooperation in terrorism investigations.
Ahmad and Ahsan pleaded guilty in December to supporting terrorists in Afghanistan through websites that sought to raise cash, recruit fighters and solicit items such as gas masks. Ahmad faces up to 25 years in prison and Ahsan faces up to 15 when they are sentenced in July.
Federal prosecutors are trying to show the extent of Ahmad's support for terrorism, arguing he ran a cell that provided support to Chechen fighters, the Taliban and other groups linked to terrorism, including al-Qaida. The witness fears arrest in the United States, they said.
Ahmad and Ahsan argued the witness should testify in person or the government should bring them to the deposition. Attorneys for the men say he has an incentive to lie, arguing he's receiving extensive benefits through his cooperation.
Prosecutors say false testimony would violate his cooperation agreement and the defense will have a chance to cross-examine him. Prosecutors say the court cannot compel his in-person testimony and expressed concerns the defendants would fight their return to the United States if they were allowed to attend the deposition in Britain.
While their attorneys can attend the deposition in Britain, the defendants won't be traveling.