Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 23, nicknamed “Shifa,” which means “Cure,” is representing himself in his trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on four counts of allegedly conspiring to provide material support to terrorism. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Associated Press, Sadequee began his 14 minute opening statement with a prayer. He told the jury that he had talked about jihadist “fantasies” but that it was empty talk and that there was no plan to carry out acts of terrorism. Sadequee denied conspiring with known terrorists. He told the jurors that he only discussed jihad in online chat rooms.”If everything is a question mark, can there be a plan?” he asked the jurors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney argued to the jury that Sadequee only needed to orchestrate the crime, not carry out any terrorism. The government claimed that Sadequee began visiting online sites frequented by Islamic militants and leaving messages regarding his intent to join the Taliban shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when he was only 15.
The government presented testimony by Omer Kamal, an Atlanta accountant, former Georgia tech student and friend of Sadequee’s. Kamal testified that he, Sadequee and Syed Haris Ahmed, who was convictedt in June, watched training videos by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, and practiced jihad attack techniques with paintball guns in North Georgia. He stated that he backed out of the group when they started planning to visit the Middle East to link up with terrorist groups. Kamal cooperated with the FBI and agreed to testify against Sadequee after becoming concerned that he was under surveillance. He said that the group discussed attacking targets including the White House, the U.S. Capitol, Guantanamo Bay Prison and Abu Ghraib. Kamal said he had slipped a note under his friends’ doors when he decided to leave the group. Sadequee then went with Ahmed to Toronto, Canada, to meet with terrorists there. Sadequee spent over an hour cross-examining Kamal yesterday.
Mr. McBurney argued that Sadequee sent videos of the alleged targets to a terrorist suspect in Britain disguising the videos with titles such as “jimmy’s 13th birthday party” and “volleyball contest.” He claimed that Sadequee subsequently traveled to Bangladesh in order to get married, but also to link up with terrorist groups. Sadequee was arrested in Bangladesh in 2006. Mr. McBurney said that Sadequee communicated with other terror suspects including Ahmed and Mirsad Bektasevic, a Balkan-born Swede who was convicted in 2007 of planning to blow up a target in Europe to force the pullout of foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ahmed, who is awaiting sentencing, has agreed to testify against Sadequee, and will take the stand today.
Sadequee has worn a gray tunic with a beard and long hair during the proceedings. Sadequee’s mother, Shirin, sat in the audience during the proceedings and wept and prayed for her son. If convicted Sadequee faces up to 60 years in prison.