U.S. Rests Case in Terrorism Trial

Associated Press Writer
MIAMI (AP) -- Federal prosecutors rested Thursday in the trial of seven men accused of plotting to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices in several cities in hopes of sparking an armed insurrection against the U.S. government.

Prosecutor Jacqueline Arango announced the end of the main prosecution case after introducing records showing that four members of the group had applied for state security guard licenses. Prosecutors say they wanted to use those licenses to obtain weapons.

Defense attorneys will now get an opportunity to put on evidence for the men known as the "Liberty City Seven," for the impoverished neighborhood where they operated out of a warehouse and a smaller building they called "The Embassy."

Suspected ringleader Narseal Batiste, 33, and the other six defendants face as many as 70 years in prison if convicted of all four charges, which include conspiracy to levy war against the U.S. and conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida.

Prosecutors say the FBI recordings show that Batiste and his followers were becoming a homegrown terror cell aspiring to topple the 110-story Sears Tower as the opening salvo of a broader guerrilla war intended to install a U.S. government based on Islam.

One videotape shows the seven pledging allegiance, or "bayat," to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden in a ceremony led by an FBI informant the men thought was an al-Qaida emissary named "Brother Mohammed."

Defense lawyers say the men never intended to mount any terrorist attacks and went along with the informant only so they could get as much as $50,000 from him.

Prosecutors spent much of Thursday displaying for jurors evidence collected by the FBI from the group's warehouse. The items included martial arts books, a large knife in a sheath, swords, camouflage clothing and a book titled "Poison In Your Food." One allegation is that the group discussed poisoning salt shakers in restaurants.

Batiste attorney Ana M. Jhones noted that the FBI never found any explosives, terror training manuals or other evidence of a planned attack on the Sears Tower or any other building.

"There were no blueprints of the Sears Tower. No schematics of the Sears Tower. No maps showing the location of the Sears Tower," Jhones said. "In fact, there were no documents pertaining to the Sears Tower."

Jurors also heard three recorded telephone conversations between Batiste and Sultan Khanbey, an elder of a sect known as the Moorish Science Temple based in Chicago. Batiste led a Miami chapter of the group - which does not recognize the U.S. government's authority - and wanted Khanbey's blessing to move ahead with the al-Qaida-backed plan.

"We don't have nothing to do with the U.S. government. We at war," Khanbey told Batiste. "We cannot ride with the United States."

"That's right," Batiste replied.

Khanbey, who was not charged in the case, later traveled to Miami and held a "trial" of sorts after suspecting that the FBI had infiltrated Batiste's group. Batiste was kicked out of the Moorish organization and the suspected conspiracy essentially fell apart.

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