Brooklyn court tries terrorist, uses experienced prosecutors
Federal Brooklyn prosecutors gave closing statements Tuesday in the trial of a Houston native al-Qaeda member accused of helping bomb a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.
“Muhanad Al Farekh sought to kill Americans. It is time to hold him accountable,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Pravda told jurors in Brooklyn’s federal court.
Al Farekh’s fingerprints were found strewn along packing tape used to bind a bomb onto a vehicle that was planned to destroy the U.S. Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan in 2009, prosecutors said.
In a two-hour closing argument, Pravda went through multiple pieces of evidence that he said tied Al Farekh to the attack, including the prints, handwriting and identification from fellow terrorists.
“We ask you to look at the evidence,” Pravda told jurors. “There’s only one conclusion that you can reach.”
Al Farekh went through a spectrum of facial expressions from furled brow to deadpan as Pravda showed a slideshow presentation of Al Farekh’s journey to terrorism.
The charges are in connection of Al Farekh’s al-Qaeda membership from 2007 to 2014, when he allegedly became a member of the group’s external operations unit and helped to plan the attack.
Two vehicles filled with bombs approached the U.S. base’s gate when the first vehicle exploded on Jan. 19, 2009. It propelled a fireball through the base that blew a U.S. soldier off his feet and landed an 18-inch piece of shrapnel in a pregnant woman’s back, prosecutors said.
The second vehicle, filled with 7,500 pounds of explosives, was intended to enter the base and detonate, but it got stuck in a crater made by the first explosion.
The driver of the second truck was shot dead when he tried to flee and the driver of the first truck died in the explosion, the only two deaths in the attack.
Pravda said the second blast would have had about a 3,000-foot range, exceeding the boundaries of the base.
He showed pictures of all 18 of Al Farekh’s alleged fingerprint matches as well as his handwriting on various letters sent through an al-Qaeda mail system.
“You know that Muhanad Al Farekh built that bomb,” Pravda told jurors.
Pravda also used testimony of a former terrorist who conspired to bomb the New York City subway.
Defense attorney, David Ruhnke told jurors in opening statements, on Sept. 12, that government witness testimonies should be taken with a grain of salt and forensic evidence can be inconclusive.
“The issue is not whether it happened,” Ruhnke said two weeks ago. “The real issue … is whether Mahmoud Al Farekh had anything at all to do with it.”
Ruhnke was expected to deliver his closing statements Tuesday afternoon.
Al Farekh grew up in Dubai before moving to Canada to attend the University of Manitoba from 2005 to 2007, court filings show.
There he joined the Muslim Students Association and became friends with co-conspirators Ferid Imam and Maiwand Yar with whom he went to Pakistan in 2007.