The Albany Times Union continues its advocacy for the Moussed Mujahideen first by attempting to legitimize defense attorney's accusations that Evan Kohlmann wasn’t qualified to testify. Repeating that old “Doogie” nickname, Time Union reporter Brendan Lyons reported in detail an exchange that supposedly displayed Kohlmann’s lack of credentials. As Andrew Cochran at Counterterrorism Blog explains, the defense attempt failed miserably…again:
The defense attorneys filed a motion to disqualify Evan, which led a reporter covering a case to ask Marvin Miller, one of the defense attorneys in the multi-defendant "Virginia jihad" case, about Evan. Miller aimed his best verbal volley at Evan and, indirectly, every federal judge before whom Evan has testified: "He is young. He doesn't have experience. He's never done any original research... He runs off at the mouth and a lot of judges won't control him the way they will other witnesses."
If you follow terrorism trials, you'll understand why Mr. Miller is a little hyper-sensitive about Evan. In the "Virginia jihad" case of Ali Chandia this year - the one in which Mr. Miller lost, with his client going to jail - the government presented a 12-page document opposing Miller's motion to exclude Evan, and the judge agreed with the government.
Prosecutors rested their case, and then Aref took the stand in his defense. Another Times Union piece details his account of the difficult life he and most Kurds experienced after the first Gulf War:
In 1983, when Aref was a teenager, he said he awoke one night in the cramped room where seven of his family members slept and he searched for his brother, who was getting violently ill outside. Under the threat of death, Iraqi forces had prohibited any travel at night then, and Aref said his brother died before they could get him to a hospital the next day.
Four years earlier, his 9-year-old sister died from health complications in the poverty-ravaged village.
Eventually, Aref said, he and his family were forced to roam Iraq's mountainous borders with millions of other Kurds fleeing Saddam's forces.
"They kill people just because they were talking Kurdish language," he said, his English noticeably improved since his arrest in August 2004. "I was one of three million and a half people, and I left my home."
Aref also talked about the two dominant Kurdish political parties and their splintered efforts to create a Kurdish state and usurp Saddam's dictatorship.
None of this excuses the fact that his name was found on a sign-in sheet at Zarqawi's Kurmal poisons training camp. 99% of the Kurds who suffered in those years never decided to hang with radical Islamist groups, but what the heck...The Times Union does describe his testimony about his unfortunate close association with, er, Mullah Krekar:
Aref admitted working for IMK, but said it was only out of desperation after a college friend offered him the job at a time when he'd lost another one. But he denied government assertions that he was part of IMK's power structure, noting that two of his brothers are members of a rival political party.
The most notorious former member of IMK, Mullah Krekar, left the organization several years ago and formed a violent Iraqi terrorist organization, Ansar al Islam, which has been responsible for suicide bombings and other attacks across Iraq. Aref admitted he met Krekar in Syria, but said it was only in passing when he visited IMK's Damascus office.
"I didn't know him personally," Aref said. "He was famous person."
One of 30 counts contained in the indictment against Aref accused him of lying to an FBI agent about whether he knew Krekar.
Where have we heard that one before? Don't you love the Times-Union obfuscation of Ansar al-Islam? The group was just sorta-kinda founded a few years ago. Whenever, dude. Actually, Krekar founded the group around 2000, and it was quite active well into the US occupation in 2003. As a matter of fact, it was sheltering Zarqawi and helped him establish his poison training facility at Khurmal. It was also one of the first groups to claim responsibility for a car bomb in Iraq.
Well, the love fest continued on Friday, Aref's second day on the stand:
Yassin M. Aref, a Kurdish refugee who moved to the United States in 1999, said his speaking skills have gradually improved, especially during the past year as he has been confined to a jail cell where he's used a dictionary and books to improve his English language comprehension.
But nearly three years ago, when a fellow mosque member asked him to be a witness for a loan, Aref said, he had no idea the man providing the money, a Pakistani immigrant, was masquerading as an illegal arms dealer. All of their conversations took place in broken English.
"The word 'ammunition' never I hear about," said Aref, who spoke no English when he moved to Albany under a United Nations refugee program. "I don't know he's trying to misguide me."
This is actually a clever defense, and one that can be used on a provincial Kurd, probably more than, say, a well-traveled, hyper-educated Arab. I hope the prosecutors have planned for the No Habla Englaise defense. If Aref walks, you'll be seeing it a lot more in these trials.