Dept. says dismissal of terror case is in order
Sept. 2, 2004 12:00 AM
DETROIT -Civil rights advocates and legal experts Wednesday praised the government's 60-page account of missteps in a major terrorism case as a rare admission that its own prosecutors made errors that deprived defendants of a fair trial.
In a court memo filed late Tuesday night, the Justice Department said the prosecution of a suspected terror cell in Detroit was filled with a "pattern of mistakes and oversights" that warrant the dismissal of the convictions.
"For the government to step up to the plate and admit that a case that it so highly touted was full of so many holes and so many problems is a very surprising, very welcome development," said David A. Moran, a law professor at Wayne State University.
The department said it supports the Detroit defendants' request for a new trial and would no longer pursue terrorism charges against them. The defendants at most would only face fraud charges at a new trial.
The department's decision came after a months-long internal investigation uncovered pieces of evidence that prosecutors failed to turn over to defense lawyers before the trial last year. The probe exposed deep differences within the government over the course of the case and the quality of the prosecution's evidence.
Karim Koubriti, 26, and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, 38, were convicted in June 2003 of conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism and to engage in fraud and misuse of visas and other documents. Ahmed Hannan, 36, was convicted of only the fraud charge, and Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 24, was acquitted.