The defense, of course, says that Islam is on trial. From the Washington Post:
Four men on trial for their roles in an alleged Virginia jihad network were caught up in a world of paramilitary training where fighting for Islam was a virtue and America was the enemy, prosecutors said in opening arguments yesterday.
As the trial began in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, prosecutors portrayed the men as militants who prepared for jihad, or holy war, abroad by playing paintball and firing weapons in the Virginia countryside. The men, the government said, exchanged videos that showed al Qaeda training camps and depicted fighters using pictures of former president Bill Clinton for target practice.
“In their world, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified. . . . This is the circle that these people swam in,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, who criticized the world view of even his own witnesses, themselves former defendants in the case, as “very strange and repellant.”
Defense attorneys portrayed the men as devoted Muslims who engaged in military training out of a religious duty to stay in shape and defend themselves against what they perceived as anti-Muslim bias. They called the defendants loyal Americans and criticized the government for making the case about Islam.
“Caliph Abdur-Raheem is not guilty of anything except playing paintball and shooting a gun, as his religious leaders told him was his responsibility to do,” said Christopher Amolsch, attorney for defendant Caliph Basha Ibn Abdur-Raheem, who is charged with conspiracy and firearms violations.
The defendants are among 11 men — all but one from the Washington suburbs — who originally were indicted in June on weapons counts and charges of training with Lashkar-i-Taiba, a group trying to drive India from Pakistan. The U.S. government has labeled the group a terrorist organization and said the defendants’ crimes took place over several years, starting in February 2000. Seven of the men were charged again in September in an updated indictment that accused two of them of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Six of the men have pleaded guilty, and prosecutors indicated yesterday that their testimony would be key to the trial. . . .
Other defendants now on trial are Hammad Abdur-Raheem (who is not related to Caliph); Seifullah Chapman; and Masoud Ahmad Khan. Chapman and Hammad Abdur-Raheem are charged with firearms violations and conspiracy counts relating to Lashkar-i-Taiba. Khan faces the most serious charges: conspiracies to support al Qaeda and the Taliban and to levy war against the United States.
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema will decide on the verdicts, because the defendants waived their rights to a jury trial. Defense attorneys said they feared that a Northern Virginia jury could not be fair to Muslim men facing allegations involving terrorism. The final defendant in the case, Sabri Benkahla, is scheduled to go on trial in March. . . .
Bernard Grimm, an attorney for Khan, disputed Kromberg’s contentions that the case is not about the men’s religion.
“This case is emphatically about Islam,” he said, describing it as a faith that “requires you, in fact it is incumbent upon you, to always protect yourself and your family.”
Foreshadowing a likely defense strategy, Grimm criticized the cooperators as having changed their stories.
And he minimized the paintball games, which the defendants acknowledge having played, as “totally innocent.”
He compared the games to a softball team that prosecutors might have at their law firm.