AP reports that “Four members of what the government calls the ‘Virginia jihad network’ have waived their right to a jury trial on charges they conspired to aid Taliban forces fighting the United States.”
The unusual move by the defendants, set to go on trial Feb. 9, puts the verdict solely in the hands of U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, the same judge who has presided over the case against alleged Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
Brinkema approved the defendants’ waiver on Friday.
The four defendants are all U.S. citizens who live in northern Virginia and the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
The government alleges they used paintball games on a field near Fredericksburg for military-style training.
The government says the training started before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as preparation for joining Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Pakistani group that wants to force India out of the disputed Kashmir region.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, prosecutors allege, the group’s aims changed to joining Taliban forces in their fight against U.S. forces.
Only one of the four, Masoud Khan of Gaithersburg, Md., traveled to Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks and trained at a Lashkar camp, according to court documents. There is no evidence that any of the defendants actually joined the Taliban.
Khan faces more serious charges of conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to support Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.
Khan’s lawyer, Bernie Grimm, said he thought it would be difficult to empanel an unbiased jury in northern Virginia, where the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon affected so many people.
The other three defendants are Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem of Arlington, Hammad Abdur-Raheem of Falls Church, and Seifullah Chapman of Alexandria.
A fifth defendant is scheduled for trial in March.
Six others charged in the case have pleaded guilty to assorted charges, and some have been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. Most of them are expected to testify for the prosecution.