- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

Attorneys for three Muslims on trial on charges of conspiring to attack the United States said in U.S. District Court in Alexandria yesterday that prosecutors were using the charges just to persecute believers in Islam after September 11.

“Islam requires that you live by the laws in the country where you reside,” and that is what her client did, said Jennifer Wicks, attorney for Massoud Ahmad Kahn, 32, of Gaithersburg.

Hammad Abdur-Raheem, 35, of Arlington went to Pakistan, “but never with the intent to break the laws of the United States,” said his attorney, William Cummings, adding that the ultimate purpose of Islam is to promote peace.

The trial “is about the misunderstanding of Islam,” said John Zwerling, attorney for Seifullah Chapman, 31, of Alexandria.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gibbs said, “Islam is not on trial in this courtroom. Paintball is not on trial in this courtroom…. They viewed this government as an enemy of Islam.”

The conspiracy charges against the three men mostly refer to paintball, a sort of war game in which players fire pellets at each other. Prosecutors say the three men were playing paintball in Northern Virginia to train for military combat.

Yesterday concluded the 15-day trial without a jury. After four hours of closing arguments, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she would pronounce the verdicts tomorrow.

Midway through the trial, Judge Brinkema acquitted a fourth man, Caliph Basha Abdur-Raheem, 29, of Falls Church, saying, “Playing paintball itself is not an illegal activity.”

Hammad Abdur-Raheem, no relation to Caliph Abdur-Raheem, remains charged with three conspiracy counts and four firearms counts. Although he had served seven years in the Army, he testified, “I didn’t know what paintball was. … I was playing just for fun.”

Mr. Chapman, a former Marine charged with three conspiracy and two weapons violations, also testified in his own defense. He said he had gone to a Pakistani military camp for vacation between college graduation and a law-enforcement job. He said he was concerned about the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and hurried home to find that vandals had painted graffiti on the doors of his home and banged hard on the door in the night.

“We are in fear from terrorists, too, but we are also in fear of neighbors,” Mr. Chapman testified.

Mr. Kahn, charged with seven counts of conspiracy and five firearm violations, is the only one of the defendants held in jail. He did not testify, but his mother did. Elizabeth Kahn testified that her son, born in Pakistan, “is very responsible” and had gone to the military camp there after September 11, but left early to try to settle the inheritance of the estate left by his father, who died there in 1992.

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