When the trial of reputed al Qaeda operative Abid Naseer begins this week, jurors are expected to hear an opening statement from the defendant himself, the latest terrorism suspect prepared to act as his own attorney in an American courtroom. The Pakistani defendant's decision to represent himself will be one twist in a trial certain to have others, including the first use of evidence seized during the Navy SEAL raid in 2011 that left Osama bin Laden dead and testimony from British secret agents who will wear wigs and makeup on the witness stand to conceal their identities. Opening statements are set for Tuesday.
Naseer, 28, was extradited in 2013 to New York City, where he pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to charges he was part of an al Qaeda conspiracy in 2009 that included failed plots to bomb a shopping mall in Manchester, England, and subways in New York City. Two government witnesses expected to testify against Naseer — Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay — pleaded guilty in the subway plot. Prosecutors claim that email account evidence shows all three men were under the direction of the same al Qaeda handler. They also say a document recovered during the bin Laden raid — now declassified — mentions Naseer and refers to the Manchester and New York schemes.
In a lengthy written statement submitted during the deportation proceedings, Naseer claimed to come from a moderate Muslim family that stressed education. He said he went to Great Britain to get a degree in computer science, not to attack the West, he said. "Committing terrorist acts is not justified and I do not consider this to be jihad," he said. "I believe in spiritual jihad." Authorities rearrested Naseer in July 2010 at the request of U.S. prosecutors. If convicted, he faces a possible life sentence.
— The Associated Press