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Terror trial defendant makes own closing argument

  • Story Highlights
  • Defendant talks about his Muslim faith, not evidence, in closing argument
  • Syed Haris Ahmed charged with providing material support to terrorists
  • Prosecutors: Ahmed discussed potential U.S. attack targets in '05 trip to Canada
  • Ahmed, 24, is former Georgia Tech student who moved to suburban Atlanta at 12
By John Murgatroyd
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The federal trial of a former Georgia Tech student accused of supporting terrorism came to a close Thursday with the defendant delivering his own closing argument.

The Capitol is pictured in a frame from a video that the FBI says Syed Haris Ahmed shot.

The FBI says Syed Haris Ahmed took casing video of the Pentagon and discussed attacks on the United States.

Syed Haris Ahmed, charged with providing material support to terrorism in the United States and abroad, used the time to talk about his Muslim faith instead of addressing the evidence against him.

"I just want to convey the message of God," Ahmed said.

"Any authority not derived from the authority of God is a state of rebellion," he said. "As a Muslim, it's not right for me to use those laws to my benefit."

Ahmed cited verses and prayers from the Quran and spent a great deal of time comparing his religion with Christianity.

"We worship the same God," Ahmed said.

Ahmed, a naturalized United States citizen who was born in Pakistan, waived his right to a jury trial so he could make the statement during closing arguments.

U.S. District Judge William Duffey will decide his case.

"Mr. Ahmed, this is somewhat different," Duffey said at the end of Ahmed's address. "This is not a case about your faith, nor my faith. This is about your conduct."

The judge told Ahmed he would act according to the laws of the United States in deciding the case by considering the evidence. If convicted, Ahmed, 24, could face 15 years in prison.

"The case is not about throwing bombs and shooting soldiers, but providing support for those activities," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney said in his closing argument.

Prosecutors contend Ahmed and alleged co-conspirator Ehsanul Islam Sadequee traveled from Atlanta to Canada in March 2005, and discussed potential attacks in the United States with three men they met online.

Ahmed and Sadequee made "casing videos" of landmarks in the Washington area during an April 2005 trip, McBurney said. The short, shaky videos were allegedly e-mailed to other co-conspirators and found on the hard drives of at least two men who were arrested on terrorism charges in the United Kingdom.

Prosecutors also said Ahmed traveled to Pakistan in July 2005 with the goal of entering a terrorist training camp.

"The whole point is to get the terrorist before he gets to flight school and figures out how to fly a commercial airliner," McBurney said.

Before closing arguments, Defense Attorney Jack Martin argued the case should be dismissed.

"The evidence is very, very thin," Martin said.

During Martin's motion for dismissal, Ahmed stood and made an objection to his attorney's arguments. "He's giving a closing argument," Ahmed said. "I was told I would give a closing argument."

Martin finished his argument shortly thereafter. The motion for dismissal was denied.

Martin wrapped up his case earlier Thursday after calling just two witnesses, Ahmed's older sister and his father. Both testified Ahmed was searching for his Muslim identity.

Throughout the trial, Martin has argued that his client is a shy, highly emotional young man. Martin said Ahmed moved to a suburban Atlanta neighborhood with his family when he was 12. He did not have a religious mentor and turned to the Internet to find his identity as a Muslim, Martin said.

Martin said there was never any agreement established with co-conspirators, just random thoughts. He said Ahmed's actions were nothing more than "childish fantasies."

Sadequee is expected to face the same charges in an August trial.

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