DETROIT -- Lawyers for four men accused of being Islamic extremists who conspired to support terrorism used testimony Friday from a doctor, a police officer and an expert in Middle Eastern studies to try to distance the men from the claims.
Bernard Haykel, an assistant professor at New York University, described a series of audio tapes found in a raid of a Detroit apartment shared by three of the men as espousing mainstream Salafi ideology, which focuses on strict adherence to Islamic traditions.
"There are a number of arguments that no radical would ever make," said Haykel, who listened to 10 of the more than 100 Arabic tapes.
Haykel said portions of the tapes played for the jury earlier in the trial by the government were taken out of context. He refuted previous testimony from a government expert that the tapes promote violence and said Islamic extremists wouldn't agree with the message.
The content of the tapes has been discussed by several experts at the trial, but no evidence has been presented that any of the defendants listened to the tapes. Haykel said he couldn't know what meaning other listeners might get from the tapes.
The government claims the men on trial are Islamic extremists who tried to recruit others for their cause and used a mentally ill man, Ali Mohammed Ali Ahmed, to help cover their plotting. Testimony from more defense witnesses resumes Monday.
Karim Koubriti, Ahmed Hannan, Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi and Farouk Ali-Haimoud are charged with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists. Their trial is the first in the United States for an alleged terror cell detected following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Charges against the defendants stem from the apartment raid six days after the attacks that led to the arrest of Koubriti, Hannan and Ali-Haimoud. Elmardoudi, who is accused of leading the "sleeper" terrorist cell, was arrested in November in North Carolina.
Earlier in the day, physician Said Abu Hassan testified that Ali Ahmed, who once had a day planner found in the same raid, had delusions. He said Ali Ahmed appeared to give orders to people who weren't in the room when examined in October 2000 at Oakwood Heritage Hospital.
"He demanded respect because he (said he) was a general in the army," Hassan told the court.
The planner contains sketches the government says represent possible targets: an American air base in Turkey and a military hospital in Jordan. But defense lawyers suggest that Ali Ahmed, who died in an apparent suicide in March 2001, made the drawings.
The defense says the planner was found in an apartment rented by some of the defendants that once was lived in by Ali Ahmed and his brother.
Prosecutors questioned how the doctor could have remembered certain details about the examination when it took place more than two years ago. The government says the defendants used Ali Ahmed to cover their plotting by having him sign the book.
Also Friday, defense lawyers worked to undermine the link made by the government between Koubriti and Ali Ahmed. A former store manager last month identified Koubriti as the man who accompanied Ali Ahmed to the discount warehouse in January 2001 and helped him write out a bad check used to buy more than $3,000 in cigarettes.
But a Farmington Hills police officer who investigated the check said another man, who acknowledged last year involvement in a cigarette smuggling case, called him and said he was with Ali Ahmed that day.
Sgt. David Stasch testified he got the call from the man after sending letters to the man and Ali Ahmed, whose names were written on the check by the manager. But under cross examination the officer said he never saw the man in person and wasn't sure who had called.