A 28-year-old Pakistani man, Abid Naseer, was convicted on Wednesday in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn of supporting terrorism and conspiring with Al Qaeda to bomb a shopping center in Manchester, England. The conviction of this man is enhancing the developing understanding of where current terrorists are coming from. Naseer was a middle-class student in Britain who became involved with Al Qaeda gradually over time. He was described as a well educated, charismatic man from a “wealthy” family. During the trial, prosecutors stated that he had helped organize a plot to bomb the shopping center in April of 2009 but was unsuccessful as he was arrested in Britain that month. It is believed that Naseer had communication with his Qaeda handler via email using code words such as “marriage” to refer to the plot, and using women’s names for specific types of bombs. To defend himself on this allegation, he stated that he was unsure of who he was communicating with, that he was just discussing his love life with an internet friend, however at the time of the email conversations he had broken up with his girlfriend so it was very unlikely that he was planning a real wedding. Also, the email address that he was contacting was the same one that Najibullah Zazi had written when he pleaded guilty in participating in a Qaeda plot to bomb the New York City subway system. Zazi claimed that the email address belonged to his handler and that he had been told to use the code word “marriage” when talking about the planned subway bombing; Mr. Naseer had no counter for the claim. Although he grew up in Pakistan, as the Al Qaeda group was gaining status there, he claimed that he had no opinion of them – seeming quite suspicious to the prosecutors.
In response to his rejection of representation by a court appointed lawyer, Naseer told the jury “I wanted the people to hear my voice and hear my story.” Representing himself, he was calm as he questioned witnesses, and during two days of testifying on his own behalf, was logical and focused. Lacking the legal training, he missed opportunities to highlight problems with witnesses or evidence and to emphasize those flaws for the jury. Mr. Naseer faces up to life in prison, as he listened to the verdict he gave no visible reaction, simply rose and clasped his hands together blinding frequently. James E. Neuman, his court-appointed legal adviser, claims that he plans to appeal the verdict. The United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Loretta E. Lynch, stated that the verdict should send a “powerful message” to terrorists.
As I read this article, my question was how did the United States convict this man who was from Pakistan and committing terror crimes in Britain? The very last paragraph explains that he was indicted in the United States in 2010, after being released after his 2009 arrest because of lack of evidence from the British authorities. Apparently there’s a law that allows the federal government to pursue terrorism cases even when they occur outside of the country, and he was extradited here in 2013. I assume that because he was in communication with the same Al Qaeda handler that Zazi was, and Zazi was plotting within the United States, that’s why we wanted to capture Naseer as well. Such an interesting piece, as well as the information that come’s with it!