Al-Qaida terror trial tied to Bly compound

A plan to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly is at the center of a trial which began Tuesday in a New York courtroom.

Opening statements were delivered Tuesday in the case of Oussama Kassir, a Lebanese-born Swede charged with attempting to aid al-Qaida by trying to set up a weapons training post in the Southern Oregon town.

"This case concerns a global conspiracy that takes place here in the United States," assistant U.S. attorney Michael Farbiarz told Judge John Keenan in district court in Manhattan.

Farbiarz pointed at the defendant, accusing Kassir of plotting to teach others how to make bombs, poison people and slit throats. Kassir was brought to the United States after he was arrested in the Czech Republic.

Authorities say he offered bomb and poison-making tips on several Web sites and tried to set up a military-style training camp in Bly.

Defense lawyer Mark Steven DeMarco said his client was "certainly not a terrorist" and urged jurors not to prejudge.

"He is certainly not a terrorist; he is certainly not a member of Al-Qaida," DeMarco said, asking the jury for "a fair trial."

The trial is expected to last at least four weeks. Kassir could face life in prison if found guilty.

Kassir, 43, arrived in the United States in 1999 and spent a year at an Oregon ranch, imparting religious teachings at a Seattle mosque before returning to Europe, according to the prosecution.

"You are going to see a knife that he used for training at the ranch. You will see the bomb-making manuals and the poison-making manuals," Farbiarz told the jury as Kassir, in a red tunic, listened through an interpreter.

Farbiarz said next week he would call James Ujaama, a former activist from Seattle who has admitted supporting the Al-Qaeda network and is now a witness for the prosecution.

Kassir allegedly admitted before witnesses he supported al-Qaeda and its boss Osama bin Laden.

The government also accused Kassir of being a follower of Egyptian Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, currently jailed in Britain for inciting to violence.

Armed with Hamza's orders and what Farbiarz called "a stack of money," Kassir traveled to Bly, Oregon "to establish a training camp for holy war, for jihad."

"The purpose of the training camp was to train young Muslims to go and do jihad in Afghanistan," he said.

Kassir set up security patrols, helped distribute instructions on how to make bombs and poison, and offered instructions in hand-to-hand combat, including how to slit a person's throat with a knife, but the camp was never properly established, the prosecutor said.

He then tried to gain followers at a mosque in Seattle, before traveling to Europe to establish at least three Web sites that contained manuals such as "The Mujahideen Explosives Handbook" and "The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook," according to Farbiarz and the indictment.

DeMarco told jurors Kassir should not be judged by his religious beliefs, nor should they retaliate against him for the 9/11 attacks, which took place near where the trial is being held.

"This trial is not about Sept, 11, 2001," he said. "You may not want to have dinner with him and you may not like the guy, but he is certainly no terrorist and he is not a member of al Qaeda," the lawyer said.

Another suspect in the case, Haroon Rashid Aswat, a British citizen and one of Hamza's chief aides, is appealing his extradition to the United States.

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