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Syed Haris Ahmed Trial: Final Day and an Unorthodox Closing Argument

John Murgatroyd at CNN,  Bill Rankin of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Greg Bluestein of the Associated Press have weighed in on the final day of the trial of Atlanta area resident, former Georgia Tech student, and alleged terrorism supporter Syed Haris Ahmed. Ahmed delivered his own closing argument yesterday in his bench trial before U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey.

Ahmed’s attorney, Jack Martin, called two witnesses on Thursday, Ahmed’s father and older sister, who testified that Ahmed was searching for his Muslim identity.

At the close of the defense’s case, Mr. Martin moved for judgment of acquittal, arguing that “The evidence is very, very thin.” “These were random thoughts, no plans, essentially a bull session about what we could do if we ever wanted to do something,” Martin said. Martin characterized the videos Ahmed and co-defendant Ehsanul Islam Sadequee took of Washington, D.C.-area landmarks as amateurish, stating “You’d be better off getting postcards of Washington than using any of those videos.” Ahmed stood an objected to Mr. Martin’s arguments. “I was told I would give a closing argument,” he said. The Court denied Mr. Martin’s motion.

Later in the day, Ahmed delivered his closing, speaking about his Islamic faith for 45 minutes. He wore a white skullcap and a beard. Ahmed nervously clicked a ink pen while he was speaking and several times asked a court reporter if he was speaking too fast. He seemed to believe that he would be found guilty, stating “I may not get a chance at a public hearing for a long time.”

Ahmed read nine verses of the Quran in Arabic, and never addressed the charges or evidence against him. “I just want to convey the message of God,” Ahmed told the Court, referring to himself. Ahmed stated that that his faith prevented him from using the law to defend himself. “Any authority not derived from the authority of God is a state of rebellion.”

Ahmed compared Islam with Christianity. “The Christians of America, my message is this: We worship the same God.” He stated that that the Quran is more authoritative than the Bible and that Muslims are actually closer followers of Jesus than Christians were. Ahmed spoke about linguistic similarities between Hebrew and Arabic, and shared beliefs between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Ahmed said that no one had ever harassed him regarding his beliefs while he had been living in Georgia. He stated that he only wanted to help the public understand his faith. “I hope that if I deliver the message that has been revealed by Allah, the promise of protection from evil will come to me,” Ahmed said.

Judge Duffey addressed Ahmed, stating that “This is not a case about your faith, nor my faith. This is about your conduct.” Judge Duffey informed Ahmed that he would decide the case by considering the evidence. The Judge stated that Ahmed had deviated from the written statement he had submitted, and noted that Ahmed was smirking.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney delivered the government’s closing argument. “The case is not about throwing bombs and shooting soldiers, but providing support for those activities,” Mr. McBurney said.

Ahmed is 24, and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

 

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