December 17, 2008 / 12:04 AM / 11 years ago

U.S. plot suspects had no intent to kill: attorneys

CAMDEN, New Jersey (Reuters) - Five Muslim men accused of planning an attack on a U.S. army base had no intention of following through even though they shared Muslim anger toward America after September 11, defense attorneys said on Tuesday.

Roofing supplies sit in the back of a pickup truck in front of the Duka Brothers residence on Mimosa Drive in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, May 9, 2007. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

The men, all born outside the United States, plotted but did not execute an attack on Fort Dix in New Jersey and discussed attacks on other installations including Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and the U.S. Coast Guard in Philadelphia, prosecutors say.

They were arrested in May 2007 and face life in prison if convicted.

In closing arguments after a seven-week trial in federal court, attorneys said two FBI informants who infiltrated the group tried to manipulate the defendants into planning the attack and buying guns.

One of the FBI’s cooperating witnesses, Besnick Bakalli, told defendant Dritan Duka, that he wanted to “kill someone” but Duka rejected the provocation, Duka’s attorney Michael Huff told jurors.

“We are good the way we are. We are not going to kill anything,” Duka said in a conversation recorded by Bakalli.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick, in his closing rebuttal, held up an M-16 and an AK-47 that the men are accused of buying and said: “They cannot credibly argue that these weapons are anything other than weapons of war.”

The defendants are Mohamad Shnewer, a Jordanian-born taxi driver from Philadelphia, ethnic Albanian Duka and his brothers Shain Duka and Eljvir Duka, who ran a roofing business in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Serdar Tatar, a convenience store clerk born in Turkey.

With the exception of Dritan Duka, 30, the defendants are in their 20s.

Huff said his client had no knowledge of the discussions about jihad between defendant Shnewer and Mahmoud Omar, the other cooperating FBI witness.

Dritan Duka was mostly concerned about being victimized because he was a Muslim in post-September 11 America, Huff said. That fear was fanned by Omar who told him “this country, look, they catch you for anything,” the court heard.

Troy Archie, an attorney for Eljvir Duka, argued that the defendants were caught up in Muslim anger toward America in the wake of September 11, but had no plans to kill American soldiers.

“Were they angry? Yes. Were they blowing off steam? Yes. Did they have an intent to kill? Absolutely not,” Archie said.

The jury will be sequestered when it begins deliberations on Wednesday morning.

Editing by Michelle Nichols and Xavier Briand

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