Saturday, January 15, 2011

American and Guyanese citizens convicted of conspiracy in a JFK Airport terror plot


Following a 6-week jury trial in the Eastern District of New York, a 67-year old naturalized American citizen Russell Defreitas (aka “Mohammed”) and a 58-year old Guyanese citizen Abdul Kadir (aka “Aubrey Michael Seaforth”) were convicted of conspiring to attack the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens, New York. Defreitas and Kadir have conspired to explode fuel tanks and the fuel pipeline under the airport with the intent to cause extensive damage to the airport and to the New York economy, as well as the loss of numerous lives. Both co-conspirators are facing possible life imprisonment. Sentencing is currently scheduled for December 15, 2010.

This terror plot was thwarted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in New York. Evidence presented at the trial has shown that Defreitas, a naturalized United States citizen from Guyana, previously worked as a cargo handler at the airport. He came up with the idea to cause an explosion at the JFK. During his multiple trips to Guyana and Trinidad in 2006, Defreitas recruited Abdul Kadir (a one-time member of the Parliament in Guyana) and a 60-year old Abdel Nur (also known as “Compton Eversley”) to join the conspiracy.

Defreitas traveled unnoticed, apparently exploiting Department of Homeland Security’s shortcomings in the processing of certain applicants for admission from Special Interest Countries (SIC). For example, on 4th of July, 2004, 23 persons from Special Interest Countries (SIC) entered the United States via the San Ysidro Port Of Entry (SYS POE), without being enrolled in the NSEERS. As of 2010, they remain unaccounted for and there has been no investigation into their whereabouts. DHS officials attempted to justify this security failure by stating that NSEERS enrollment was “discretionary” and applied only to non-immigrants. This deeply flawed approach fails to take into account the fact that numerous green card holders and naturalized US citizens have been involved in terror conspiracies.

Special Registration Procedures

Between his many trips abroad, Russell Defreitas engaged in video surveillance of the JFK Airport. He transported the footage back to Guyana to review it with his co-conspirators. During the trial, Kadir complained of the amateur quality of the video shot by Defreitas and admitted suggesting that the group use Google Earth to get better images of the airport.

According to the evidence presented at trial, members of the terror conspiracy also attempted to enlist support from prominent international terrorist groups and leaders, as well as the government of Iran, including Abu Bakr, leader of the Trinidadian militant group Jamaat Al Muslimeen, and an Al Qaeda leader Adnan El Shukrijumah.

Defreitas reportedly recruited Kadir to join the plot because he was an engineer and had connections with militant groups in Iran and Venezuela. During the trial, Kadir admitted that he regularly passed information to Iranian authorities and believed himself bound to follow Islamic Fatwas from Iranian religious leaders. Kadir arrogantly took the stand, attempting to convince the jury that he was innocent. He claimed that his motive for participating in the terror plot was to get money from wealthy Muslims in New York to build a mosque in Guyana.

Prosecutors shocked the jury by showing them a photograph of Kadir, in which he was shirtless and armed with 5 handguns. Kadir tried to explain away the picture by stating that he was just having fun at Christmas.

During cross-examination, Kadir was forced to acknowledge his affiliation with Mohsen Rabbani and other Iranian diplomats. Rabbani operated in the 1980s and '90s under cover as a cultural attache at Tehran's embassies in South America. He is wanted by Interpol for masterminding the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

Defreitas was arrested in New York on June 2, 2007. Kadir was arrested in Trinidad on his way to Iran, aboard a plane headed to Venezuela. Ibrahim and Nur were also arrested in Trinidad. Kadir, Ibrahim and Nur were subsequently extradited to the United States.

Defreitas reportedly planned to release a large number of rats at the airport to use them as a diversion. Government informant Steven Francis recorded Defreitas discussing his plans to distract security at the airport by creating chaos. After the public and airport security was to have been frightened by rats, the co-conspirators planned to detonate targeted areas of the JFK airport.

Defreitas and Kadir were convicted of the following crimes:
  1. Conspiracy to Attack a Public Transportation System, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2332f;
  2. Conspiracy to Destroy a Building by Fire or Explosive, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(n);
  3. Conspiracy to Attack Aircraft and Aircraft Materials, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 32;
  4. Conspiracy to Destroy International Airport Facilities, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 37; and
  5. Conspiracy to Attack a Mass Transportation Facility, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1992(a)(10).
Defreitas was also convicted of Surveillance of a Mass Transportation Facility, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1992(a)(8).

Abdel Nur pleaded guilty before trial and faces a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. A fourth member of the plot, Kareem Ibrahim, faces trial on the same charges as Defreitas and Kadir.

American and Guyanese Citizens Convicted of Conspiracy to Launch Attack at JFK Airport - Defendants Plotted to Explode Fuel Tanks at Airport

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