Jurors at the Fort Dix terror trial today watched videos of beheadings and al Qaeda propaganda seized from one defendant’s computer, footage investigators contend proves the young Muslim men were studying terror tactics and preparing to attack.
One video opened with background music and a man singing “Blood shall be spilled” in Arabic.
Sounds like certain Koranic expressions found in a children’s video-game that has infuriated Muslims.
Then two Iraqi captives appeared in succession on camera, each sitting before a red tapestry and confessing they had been spies for America and Israel.
An FBI language specialist, Gassan Hajjar, then described for jurors what happened next: Using a knife, the captors sliced off the hostages’ heads, taking four to six minutes to complete the decapitations, he said. They held the severed heads aloft, placed them back on the bodies and celebrated.
Prosecutors aired the videos as the first week of testimony in the Camden courtroom came to an end, letting the images potentially linger in jurors’ minds as a searing coda to the week.
Agents extracted the videos from a computer seized last year at the Cherry Hill home of Shain and Eljvir Duka, illegal Albanian immigrants who prosecutors say were radical Islamists plotting to attack Fort Dix or another area installation.
Being tried with them on charges of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers are their brother, Dritan Duka, of Cherry Hill; Mohamad Shnewer, a native of Jordan and nationalized U.S. citizen from Cherry Hill, and Serdar Tatar, a legal permanent resident from Turkey who lived in Philadelphia.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Hammer and William Fitzpatrick have argued in court filings that the men watched al Qaeda videos of religious lectures, political propaganda and violent attacks to mentally and emotionally prepare themselves for a jihad, or holy war.
The clips jurors watched were among hundreds of jihadist photos, articles and Internet links agents found on the defendants’ computers after the May 2007 arrests ended a 15-month FBI investigation.
Jurors were spared the actual scenes of beheadings after attorneys objected the explicit brutality wasn’t proof of any conspiracy by their clients and would unfairly prejudice the jury against them. U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler refused to ban the videos altogether, but ordered that prosecutors show an “antiseptic” version that stopped the videos right before the decapitations.
Defense attorneys have argued there was no terror plot. They claim the alleged conspiracy was created and encouraged by paid FBI informants hired to infiltrate the plot and agents eager to win a terrorism conviction.