Trial opens for accused NY airport bomb plotters


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Two accused Islamist extremists were all bluster and no substance, their defense attorneys said in opening statements on Wednesday at a trial on charges they planned to bomb a New York airport.


But U.S. prosecutors told jurors that suspects Russell Defreitas, 66, and Abdul Kadir, 58, did more than just talk but "took concrete steps to make this plan a reality."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Berit Berger said Defreitas, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana, and Kadir, a former member of parliament in the South American country, formed a conspiracy to blow up buildings, fuel tanks and pipelines at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

"The defendants are guilty of conspiring this attack," she said.

The purported plot was nowhere near operational at the time of their June 2007 arrests, officials have said.

Defreitas, a former JFK employee, provided knowledge of the airport's facilities and layout, Berger said, while Kadir, an engineer, helped the plotters with technical aspects such as how to explode fuel pipelines.

But Len Kamdang, a court-appointed attorney for Defreitas, accused prosecutors of being "overzealous" and making a case out of mere "empty talk."

The government, Kamdang said, took a "poor, lonely, bitter old man that talked big game," and, through an informant, nudged him into incriminating himself.

"Without the government, Russell Defreitas is nothing," Kamdang said. His words were "all sizzle and no steak."

Kadir's attorney, Toni Messina, urged jurors to treat Steven Francis, the government's informant, with suspicion.

She also urged jurors to be wary of preconceived notions against Muslims in "the shadow of the World Trade Center" -- which was destroyed in the al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.

This is the first case involving an alleged plot against the city to go before a local jury since 2006. The trial is overseen by U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry in Brooklyn federal court.

Kadir, a Shia Muslim, was arrested on board a flight to Iran, Berger said, where he was to seek funding for the bomb plot.

The men sought the help of Jamaat Al Muslimeen, an Islamist extremist group in Trinidad and Tobago that was behind a 1990 coup attempt on the island, Berger said.

They also tried to contact Caribbean al Qaeda operative Adnan Shukrijumah, Berger said. The FBI has said Shukrijumah has a Guyanese passport, and the United States is offering a $5 million reward for his capture.

Two other men were also arrested in the plot. Kareem Ibrahim, of Trinidad and Tobago, was deemed too ill and may face trial at a later date. Guyanese Abdel Nur, 60, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a separate charge of material support to terrorism and faces up to 15 years in prison.