Ha ha! A real side splitter! Look out, Letterman!
“Store operator in trouble over jihad comments: Defense lawyer: Client ‘was joking’ about holy war,” by Jamie Satterfield for the Knoxville News, December 15 (thanks to James):
Is a Northwest Knoxville convenience store operator a jihad jokester or a terrorist-in-waiting?
That was the question U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton faced Monday as federal prosecutors Jeff Theodore and Will Mackie pushed for the detention pending trial of Hazam Ali Ahmed.
The 35-year-old Ahmed was charged with being a felon in possession of firearms after authorities last week found two guns inside the Central Convenience Store on Keith Avenue that he operated.
However, testimony at Monday’s hearing shows Ahmed has been on the radar screen of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force since at least January 2006.
FBI Agent Mark D. Murphy testified that an informant clandestinely recorded chats with Ahmed in early 2006 during which Ahmed allegedly tried to recruit the informant into the terrorist network al-Qaeda.
“He referred to jihad,” Murphy said of Ahmed. “He asked the confidential source if he would be interested in joining jihad. He stated that he was connected to al- Qaeda, that he had worked for them for several years. He wanted the informant to join al-Qaeda. ”
According to Murphy’s testimony, Ahmed told the informant, with whom he was acquainted, that he planned to wait “until his son reached the age of seven” before putting into action a plan to carry out a terrorist attack at a shopping mall.
However, defense attorney Barbara Clark elicited testimony from Murphy that Ahmed told agents “he was joking.” She also noted that although the FBI had been monitoring Ahmed for nearly four years now, they had not unearthed any proof that Ahmed had taken any steps to craft or carry out such a plot.
“You knew about these statements in 2006,” Clark said to Murphy. “Why was there not any indictment then?”
“Unfortunately, we cannot indict based on statements alone,” Murphy responded.
Clark said Ahmed is a U.S. citizen. He has a 1997 conviction in Pennsylvania for “interstate transportation of securities,” Theodore said. Although he did not elaborate, court records indicate that conviction may be related to admissions Ahmed made to Knoxville FBI agents that he had been smuggling cigarettes to avoid taxes levied on those goods….
Cigarette smuggling, eh? How interesting.