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Trial for 7 members of US militia group Hutaree begins in Michigan federal court

The trial of seven of nine indicted Hutaree [CNN backgrounder] militia members began with jury selection and opening statements [case docket] Monday in the US District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan [official website]. Nine members of the militia were indicted [JURIST report] in March 2010 on charges of seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence in connection with a plan to kill Michigan law enforcement officers. Lawyers for the Hutaree militia maintain that the anti-government statements made by militant members were not serious threats [AP report] and were made only in frustration. The government maintains that the Hutaree militia's primary aim was to fight law enforcement authorities who belonged to the "New World Order". One of the nine militia members charged has already agreed to plead guilty, while another is set for a separate trial.

In May 2010, federal Judge Victoria Roberts granted bail for the nine members of the group. Roberts ruled that bail would be granted [JURIST report] but that the eight men and one woman must relinquish weapons and weapons permits, remain confined to their homes, and be kept under electronic surveillance. The group members allegedly planned to kill [AP report] Michigan law enforcement officers by, among other methods, making phony 911 calls and ambushing those who responded. There is some evidence that right-wing nativist and so-called "patriot" anti-government militias such as the Hutaree are on the rise in the US. A 2009 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) [advocacy website] noted that these groups are making a comeback [JURIST report] after declining for a number of years. The SPLC said that such groups are generally anti-tax, anti-immigration, and increasingly racially motivated since the election of the country's first African-American president, Barack Obama. The SPLC also warned that these groups could soon pose a security risk to the country, quoting one official as saying "[a]ll it's lacking is a spark. I think it's only a matter of time before you see threats and violence."

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