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'D.C. Five' to face questions in court

Five American terror suspects, surrounded by police and officials, leave court on March 2.
Five American terror suspects, surrounded by police and officials, leave court on March 2.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Five Americans from Virginia arrested in December in Pakistan
  • Defense says terror charges they face are "fake and baseless"
  • Men accused of conspiracy to commit terrorism, wage against Pakistan and allies
  • Five worshipped together at mosque in Alexandria, Virginia
RELATED TOPICS
  • Pakistan
  • Terrorism

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Five Pakistani-Americans on trial in Pakistan on terrorism charges will be questioned in court for the first time this weekend, their defense attorney said Friday.

It will be the first time the men, known as the D.C. Five, will be questioned in detail about the charges, barrister Hassan Dastagir Katchela told CNN. The questioning will be held Saturday.

Katchela said he is confident the college-age men, who face life in prison if convicted, will be proven innocent and released soon, because the allegations against them are "fake and baseless."

The trial of the men opened on the last day of March in Sargodha, Pakistan, with the defense accusing Pakistani authorities of fabricating evidence that the Americans plotted attacks on Pakistan.

Their lawyers said the men planned no such terrorist attacks and were implicated by Pakistani authorities, who were under intense pressure to bring an indictment. The defense has said it believes some of the evidence obtained on the suspects' computers could have been manipulated.

Katchela said all prosecution witnesses have been cross-examined, so the court wants to hear from the accused. Katchela said he believes the defense will rest its case soon, perhaps "following two more hearings after which the judge could rule on the case."

The group has been called the D.C. Five because they all lived in the region around the U.S. capital. They 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.

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.

Zamzam's mother, Amal Khalifa, said last month the five men went to Pakistan for a wedding without telling their parents and were watching television when 30 armed men put guns in their faces and took them away. She said authorities held the men for 36 hours without food or water.

"They tortured them, they beat them up," Khalifa said. "As soon as they fell asleep, somebody hit them so they don't fall asleep."

Khalifa said that during a visit with her son in prison and in a letter, Zamzam claimed the men were tortured into confessing. Nadeem Kiani, a spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in Washington, has vigorously denied the allegation.

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

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."

Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.