- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2004

A federal judge yesterday acquitted one of four men accused of conspiring to aid the Taliban in its fight against the United States and tossed some charges against some of the other three defendants.

The defendant facing the most serious charges, Masoud Khan, is still accused of conspiracy to wage war against the United States and conspiracy to provide support to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.

But U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, after the prosecution rested its case yesterday, dismissed all charges against Caliph Basha ibn-Abdur-Raheem, 29, of Falls Church.

Judge Brinkema also threw out several conspiracy and firearms charges against Seifullah Chapman and Hammad Abdur-Raheem and one lesser count against Mr. Khan.

Caliph Abdur-Raheem’s mother wept when Judge Brinkema announced her ruling. He smiled and shook hands with his co-defendants before walking out of the courtroom a free man.

“I knew I didn’t do anything,” Caliph Abdur-Raheem said. “I always try do to everything by the law.”

Prosecutors had argued that Caliph Abdur-Raheem’s possession of an AK-47-style rifle and his participation in paintball games with group members in 2000 and 2001 were sufficient participation in a conspiracy to allow the case to move forward.

But Judge Brinkema said she saw little evidence in the two-week trial to link him to the conspiracy in any meaningful way.

“He does ascribe to perhaps a more radical form of Islam,” Judge Brinkema said. “He did go and participate in paintball, … but playing paintball itself is not an illegal activity.”

Judge Brinkema dismissed the other charges because she said the government could not possibly prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Caliph Abdur-Raheem had said his participation in the paintball games and his gun ownership were merely ways to learn and practice self-defense. “I still have a right in this country to protect my family,” he said.

Six others charged in the conspiracy already have pleaded guilty to various charges, and many testified for the prosecution. Caliph Abdur-Raheem said the charges against all the defendants are baseless.

He also said those who struck plea bargains made a mistake.

“They should have just stayed strong; it’s all about belief in God,” he said.

Caliph Abdur-Raheem’s attorney, Christopher Amolsch, said his client demonstrated “enormous courage to go to trial in this jurisdiction, being a Muslim, with the words Taliban and al Qaeda floating about.”

All four defendants waived their right to a jury trial in the case, a motion to which prosecutors agreed. Mr. Amolsch said a bench trial was critical in such a complicated case.

Caliph Abdur-Raheem said he always felt comfortable that the judges treated his case fairly, including in the days after his arrest last year, when a magistrate judge set him free to await trial over prosecutors’ objections.

The trial continues against the other three defendants, with the defense beginning its case yesterday afternoon.

The government says some of the conspirators, including Mr. Khan, joined a militant Islamic group in Pakistan shortly after the September 11 attacks with the ultimate goal of joining the Taliban in its defense against the pending U.S. invasion. Other conspirators supported the effort by training in military tactics on a paintball field near Fredericksburg, Va.

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