An expert on the Middle East and Islam testified Friday that the government misrepresented the contents of audiotapes which four terrorism suspects allegedly used to get pumped up for attacks against the United States.
"Al-Kousi is not for armed struggle -- he's dead set against it," Bernard Haykel, a New York University assistant professor said about Osama Al-Kousi, a relatively unknown religious teacher who created a series of audiotapes at a mosque in Egypt.
Federal agents found the tapes in the defendants' flat on Sept. 17, 2001. Under questioning from defense lawyer William Swor, Haykel said the tapes, which were recorded in Arabic, don't advocate violence but instead exhort listeners to become good Muslims and to stay away from people who preach terrorism.
Haykel said the tapes attack the teachings of terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Haykel, appearing for the defense, is the second scholar to challenge the government's claim that the tapes promote bloodshed.
On Wednesday, Wael Hallaq, a professor of Islamic law at McGill University in Montreal, called Al-Kousi "the ultimate pacifist."
Both professors contradicted the government's expert, Walid Phares, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Florida Atlantic University, and FBI translators.
They said the tapes advocate violence against Jews, Christians and unfaithful Muslims. Haykel wouldn't budge from his position, despite a vigorous cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino.
Convertino questioned how much Haykel could know if he only listened to 10 of the 105 tapes and suggested that his testimony might be motivated by his $200-per-hour consulting fee.
Phares received a $50-per-hour fee.
Prosecutors are using about 15 snippets from 10 tapes Haykel listened to.
The tapes could determine the outcome of the nation's first trial to result from the 9/11 terrorism probe.
Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 22, Ahmed Hannan, 34, Karim Koubriti, 24, all of Detroit and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, 36, of Minneapolis are charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and document fraud.
Most of the government's case is based on the testimony of a former roommate, Youssef Hmimssa, who says the four men tried to enlist him to help them recruit, train and arm terrorists for attacks in the United States and overseas.
But he admits he's a criminal who has lied on many occasions. Much of the rest of the case is based on sketches of alleged terrorism targets overseas. The trial resumes Monday.