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'D.C. Five' defense team says Pakistan faked evidence

By Paula Newton, CNN
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Americans on trial in Pakistan
  • Five Americans charged with plotting terrorist attacks against Pakistan
  • Defense lawyers say authorities were under pressure to indict men
  • Six of 20 prosecution witnesses called Wednesday
  • Men expected to take stand in their own defense
  • Pakistan
  • Terrorism

Sargodha, Pakistan (CNN) -- The trial of the "D.C. Five" opened in Sargodha, Pakistan, on Wednesday with the defense accusing Pakistani authorities of fabricating evidence against five Americans accused of plotting attacks on Pakistan.

The Americans could get life in prison if convicted. Their lawyers claim that they planned no such terrorist attacks and were implicated by Pakistani authorities who were under intense pressure to indict them.

"We have gone through all their statements and the story. [Pakistani authorities] have manipulated and concocted things which really are not true. They are false and frivolous," said Tariq Asad, defense counsel.

Asad refused to disclose that evidence but claimed that it would all be revealed during his cross-examination of prosecution witnesses. The defense believes that some of the evidence obtained on the suspects' computers could have been manipulated.

The defense team said it expects all five its clients to take the stand.

Asad described his clients as being in good spirits and "relieved" that the trial was under way. They are confident they can prove their innocence, he said.

"They are going to fight it very well. They are innocent, so they will be proved innocent beyond doubt, I'm positive," Khalid Farooq said outside the prison where his son, Umar Farooq, is being held.

But even if they are acquitted, sources close to the defense team expressed doubt that the young men would return to the United States. The suspects are said to be trying to avoid further prosecution.

Their lawyers and Farooq were able to meet with the defendants after court adjourned. Farooq said the suspects were in better health, and he was satisfied with their treatment in prison. The men had claimed that they were beaten and mistreated in prison from the moment they were arrested late last year

Farooq expressed frustration that the families of the defendants would not be able to hear testimony during the trial. He indicated that he would appeal to a Pakistani court to win permission for the families to attend proceedings.

In a precautionary move, Pakistani authorities are holding the trial in the district prison where the five suspects are incarcerated. Authorities say they are trying to avoid any security risks.

The men, who have been called the "D.C. 5" because they all lived in the region around the U.S. capital, have been charged with several terrorism-related counts, including criminal conspiracy to commit terrorism and waging war against Pakistan and its allies, including the United States.

Sargodha Police Chief Usman Anwar testified that he has strong evidence that the five men planned to attack specific targets.

Nadeem Akram Cheema, prosecutor for the Anti-Terrorism Court in Sargodha, called six of 20 witnesses -- Anwar, a police investigator and four hotel managers -- to testify Wednesday. The rest will take the stand when the trial resumes April 17.

The five Americans -- Ahmed Abdullah Minni, Umar Farooq, Aman Hassan Yemer, Waqar Hussain Khan and Ramy Zamzam -- used to worship together at a mosque in Alexandria, Virginia, until they went missing in November and turned up in Pakistan. They were arrested in December in Sargodha, about 120 miles south of Islamabad, after their parents in the United States reported them missing.

Representatives of the U.S. consulate in Lahore were seen entering and exiting the prison during the first day of the trial.

Pakistani authorities have described the men as college students, intent on waging holy war against "infidels for the atrocities committed by them against Muslims around the world."

The defense is expected to cast the five as curious young men eager to know more about their religion and culture.