The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] on Tuesday upheld the convictions of five men [opinion, PDF] for conspiracy to provide support to terrorist group al Qaeda [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in planning attacks in the US. Two of the men were also convicted of plotting to destroy the Sears tower in Chicago and FBI offices around the US. The court rejected the six arguments made by the convicted ringleader Narseal Batiste [BBC report] and the other defendants, including challenges to the sufficiency of evidence presented during trial, due process violations, admissibility of witness testimony and limitations on cross-examination of witnesses. The men were arrested in 2006 [JURIST report] and charged [indictment] with conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda; conspiring to provide material support, training, and resources to terrorists; conspiring to maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive; and conspiring to levy war against the government of the US. The district court convicted five of the men after two mistrials and after two of the suspects were acquitted and released. One of the acquitted men was deported [Miami Herald report] to his native country of Haiti. The appellate court sentenced Batiste to 13 years imprisonment, while the other four men received prison sentences of six to nine years.
The Eleventh Circuit's decision is the latest example of US and Canadian efforts to foil terrorist plots and hold conspirators accountable. The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] declared in June that it would hear an appeal [JURIST report] in the case of Mohammed Momin Khawaja, who was arrested in 2004 in Canada and found guilty of participating in a terrorist group, instructing a person to finance terrorism, making property available to terrorists, contributing to a terrorist group and facilitating terrorism. Also in June, a US federal jury acquitted Tahawwur Hussain Rana [JURIST report], a Chicago resident with Canadian citizenship, of participating in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks but convicted him on two counts of planning to attack a Copenhagen newspaper. One of the witnesses at Rana's trial, US citizen and Chicago resident David Headley had pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in March to 12 counts of federal terrorism stemming from the Mumbai terror attacks and a terror incident in Copenhagen. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] in June defended his plans to prosecute terror suspects in federal civilian courts after consistently advocating [JURIST reports] that terror suspects should be tried in civilian courts, despite a lack of support from Congress.