December 16, 2017
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bin Laden's ex ally turns into key US witness

Saajid Muhammad Badat, a British Islamist terrorist sentenced to a 13-year prison term for planning to blow up an aircraft with a bomb hidden in his shoe.
A British shoe bomb-plotter-turned-government informant, who once conspired with Osama bin Laden, has become a key witness for US prosecutors seeking to give American juries a taste of life inside al Qaeda, court documents, US and British officials and lawyers say.

Saajid Badat, 33, has already testified via video link at the trials in New York of two alleged al Qaeda militants, and he is scheduled to give testimony at the trial of Abu Hamza al Masri, a fiery, one-eyed Egyptian preacher with hooks for hands whose terrorism case began this week.

Still, Badat, who has served a prison term and lives under a new identity in Britain, refuses to come to the United States to testify because he is wanted by American authorities on shoe-bombing charges.

Defense lawyers faced with countering his damaging testimony accuse prosecutors of trying to have their cake and eat it too. The government is using Badat as a witness in US courts, they say, in violation of an agreement with British authorities that he would testify "in the United States" - where he could be confronted by defense lawyers during cross-examination - while leaving the indictment against him in place indefinitely.

Most of the testimony Badat has given so far in US court cases has focused on his interactions with bin Laden and other Qaeda commanders while training in Afghanistan, helping prosecutors build a picture of how al Qaeda operated without directly incriminating specific defendants on trial.

Badat testified by video about life in al Qaeda training camps at the 2012 trial in Brooklyn of Adis Medunjanin, an alleged associate of Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty with a third man to plotting to bomb the New York City subway system. Medunjanin was convicted on charges related to the plot.

He also testified by video link at the recent trial in Manhattan of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden's son-in-law, who made threatening speeches after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

UK investigators call Badat a "supergrass," a British colloquialism for a prolific informant. He struck a formal deal with British authorities to give information and testify against fellow militants in return for a reduced prison term.

In a 2012 statement posted on its website, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said Badat was the first-ever "UK convicted terrorist" to agree with authorities to "give evidence in a trial against other terrorists."

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Tags:  Bin Laden  terrorism  US  UK  

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