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FBI informants, wiretaps and prejudicial evidence: the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on these issues last week as the defense attorneys for the “Fort Dix Five” appealed their clients’ case.
The Fort Dix Five case involves a group of New Jersey men who were arrested in 2007 and convicted in 2008 based on their involvement in an alleged plot to attack the Fort Dix military base in New Jersey.
According to Courthouse News, Jordanian-born Mohamad Shnewer and three Albanian brothers - Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka - received life sentences. A fifth man, Turkish-born Serdar Tatar, was sentenced to nearly 33 years in prison.
The men came under suspicion of federal authorities in 2006, after the FBI obtained a videotape depicting the five men shooting guns at a shooting range in the Pocono Mountains while shouting "jihad in the States!" The same video also depicted the men playing paintball and riding horses.
One controversial issue being raised by the Duka family was the use of FBI informants to incite the defendants. The group was arrested after purchasing guns from one of two FBI informants. Defense attorneys argued that informants Mahmoud Omar, an Egyptian native, and Albanian national Besnik Bakalli steered conversations, which they subsequently recorded, to create a plot for attacking Fort Dix, when no such plot existed. As such, many are arguing that the paid FBI informants themselves created the plot and then ensnared the defendants into the recorded conversations.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the case before appeals doesn't deal with the controversial issue of FBI informants and entrapment. The issue is one of evidence gathered under Foreign Services Intelligence Act and whether the evidence was gathered in a manner that violated the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable searches.
During the trial, videos were shown to the jury -- videos that included the beheading of biased jurors by Iraqi militants. This video, the defense argued before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, was prejudicial to the case.
The case will be decided later this year. Meanwhile, members of the Duka family are doing whatever they can to support their incarcerated members and to fight the case.