News24

US man accused in terror plot seeks bail

2011-11-15 10:31

Worcester - A man accused of plotting to fly remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives into the Pentagon and US Capitol is a "ticking time bomb" committed to attacking the US, a prosecutor said on Monday while urging a judge to keep him locked up while he awaits trial.

But attorneys for 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus argued for his release, saying he is a mentally troubled man who had a "completely unrealistic fantasy" that had no chance of succeeding.

Ferdaus was arrested in September after undercover FBI employees posing as members of al-Qaeda delivered what they say he believed was 11kg of C-4 plastic explosives.

Prosecutors say he asked the undercover agents to get him the explosives, AK-47 assault rifles and grenades so he could carry out the attacks. Authorities say he also showed them cellphones he had fashioned into detonators.

Ferdaus, who has a physics degree from Boston's Northeastern University, faces six charges, including attempting to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to damage and destroy national defense premises.

His lawyers are asking that he be released on bail and placed in the custody of his father until trial.

Prosecutors argued during a detention hearing on Monday in US District Court that he is dangerous and should remain behind bars. There was no immediate ruling from US Magistrate Judge Timothy Hillman.

Defensive and unco-operative

Assistant US Attorney Stephanie Siegmann said Ferdaus began plotting an attack on the United States in 2010, before the FBI sent an informant and later undercover employees to meet with him and record their conversations.

FBI agent Bradley Davis testified that agents interviewed Ferdaus in October 2010 after he went into a gun shop, asked about purchasing weapons, acted suspiciously and took a photograph. The gun shop's owner took down Ferdaus' license plate, and Ferdaus later was questioned by the FBI.

During the interview, Ferdaus, a Muslim, described America as "a racist nation against Muslims" and questioned the FBI's authority to interview him, Davis said.

"He was very defensive and fairly unco-operative," Davis said.

Ferdaus also was questioned by Ashland police after he was seen in the woods near the town's train station.

"He said, 'I know this looks very suspicious, but I was just trying to get a good look at the train station,'" Davis said.

Siegmann, the prosecutor, said Ferdaus provided the men posing as al-Qaeda members with two detailed plans - one with a 14-page narrative -describing attacks on the Pentagon and US Capitol building. She said the men posing as al-Qaeda members told him more than 30 times that he did not have to go through with the plan but he repeatedly said he wanted to do it.

Siegmann said Ferdaus told the undercovers, "I just can't stop. There is no other choice for me".

Explosives

But Ferdaus' attorneys challenged the credibility of an FBI informant who was the first to make contact with Ferdaus at his mosque in Worcester, west of Boston, in December 2010.

Under questioning from attorney Miriam Conrad, FBI special agent John Woudenberg acknowledged that the informant, known as Khalil, had been a gang member, had a drug problem and had multiple criminal convictions.

"We were aware that he had issues; he was a difficult to handle informant," he said.

Woudenberg said the FBI decided to use him with Ferdaus because he was knowledgeable about Islam.

Ferdaus' lawyers also questioned whether the plan prosecutors say was concocted by Ferdaus was feasible.

Davis testified earlier this month that FBI bomb technicians analysed a cellphone Ferdaus had fashioned into a detonator and "came to the conclusion that it could actually be used" to detonate explosives.

Under questioning from defence attorney Catherine Byrne on Monday, Davis said the plan was feasible "with modifications".