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Fort Dix suspects want more access to evidence

Three of the five men charged with plotting an attack on the Army's Fort Dix are asking a judge for access to all of the evidence against them.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Three of the five men charged with plotting an attack on the Army's Fort Dix have asked a judge to move them out of a high-security prison unit, saying they were being illegally denied the right to see all of the evidence against them.

In legal filings over the past week, the men repeat a complaint that their lawyers have made before: In the Special Housing Unit of the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, they are not being given enough access to the government's evidence in their case.

The defendants' lawyers want the men moved to the prison's general population, or at least given the same rights as inmates in the general population.

They also want them to hear — and in some cases, see — about 200 hours of audio and video recordings the government made while investigating the case. They are getting access to the recordings for only limited periods, their lawyers say.

The inmates are rarely let of their cells and can only review audio and video evidence and meet with their lawyers outside their cell.

A judge may consider the new requests from Dritan Duka, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer and Serdar Tatar at a status conference scheduled for Tuesday.

The men, all foreign-born and in their 20s, were charged in May with planning a raid on Fort Dix. They face life in prison if convicted of conspiring to murder military personnel. A sixth man pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to provide weapons to the group. No attack was ever staged on the base, which is being used largely to train reservists bound for Iraq.

Shnewer's lawyer, Rocco Cipparone, also complained that when he visits his client he must sign a form pledging to communicate with him only in English. "I've never ever seen it for other clients" in custody, Cipparone said.

The prison's Special Housing Unit is used for suspects whom authorities believe should not be in the general population — often for their own protection. It is not solitary confinement; some have cellmates. All five men have been in the unit since they were arrested.

The men have complained that they are not being allowed visits from their families and phone calls as often as they should.

As of Monday, the other two men — Dritan Duka's brothers, Eljvir and Shain — had not made similar requests, although they and their lawyers have complained about their treatment in custody.

Their trial is scheduled to start Jan. 15, but will likely be pushed back.

A spokesman for the detention center did not return a call seeking comment Monday.