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JFK bomb plot -Jury watches video of surveillance talk

Abdul Kadir & Russell DeFreitas

NEW YORK/ GUYANA (SFC)–The jury in the trial over an alleged plot to blow up New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport watched video for the first time of a defendant and a government witness driving around the airport in preparation of the attack.

Russell Defreitas, an ex-airline employee, and Steven Francis, a government informant who infiltrated the group, could be seen on the video with Defreitas pointing out fuel tanks and the air-control tower.

“As long as one of them tanks get hit: all gone,” Defreitas told Francis on the video recording on Jan. 3, 2007, played in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, today.

Defreitas, a former Evergreen Airlines cargo worker, and Abdul Kadir, a citizen of Guyana who served as a member of the Guyanese Parliament, are charged with hatching the plot in January 2006. They circulated their plan to an international network of Muslim extremists, prosecutors said in court papers.

Francis, a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Dominican Republic, became a confidential informant for the federal government after he was convicted of drug trafficking.

“You just can’t believe a place like Kennedy can be so lapsing,” Defreitas, a U.S. citizen and native of Guyana, told Francis as they drove around the cargo and other areas where Defreitas used to work. “Yes! No soldier, nothing at all!”

Less Security

The attacks were designed to destroy “the whole of Kennedy,” the largest airport in the New York City area, Defreitas said in a taped conversation, according to the Justice Department. The plot was foiled in the planning stages with the aid of Francis, Assistant U.S. Attorney Berit Berger told the jury in her June 30 opening statement.

Francis testified that Neville Rutherford, a businessman in Guyana and a co-conspirator not charged in the case, told him that Christmas Eve would be a good time to conduct the attack because there would be less security at the airport.

U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry, presiding over the trial, ruled today that the government can’t introduce evidence about a second plot to blow up the U.S. and British embassies in Guyana.

Rutherford discussed that plan with Francis in Guyana in 2006, the government said. Defreitas and Kadir weren’t aware of the plan, called The Beginning, it said. Prosecutors wanted to use the second conspiracy to counter the defense argument that without Francis the JFK plot wouldn’t have moved forward.

Lawyers for both men opposed allowing the evidence in, saying it would be prejudicial against their clients.

“It’s not part of the conspiracy that’s at issue here,” the judge told the lawyers outside the jury’s presence. “It’s a secondary plot.”

Other Probes

Irizarry allowed Francis to testify generally that he worked overseas for the U.S. on other terrorism probes at the same time as the JFK case.

The plotters conducted surveillance of the airport, including videotaping its buildings, and sought expert advice, financing and explosives, the prosecutor said.

Defreitas, who by then no longer worked at the airport, allegedly was sent from Guyana to conduct video and photo surveillance. He allegedly identified the target sites and escape routes, in part, by using satellite photographs from the Internet.

Defreitas allegedly compared the plot to terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center in September 2001 when two planes were crashed into the towers.

Radical Groups

“Even the twin towers can’t touch it,” he said in taped conversations, according to the Justice Department. “This can destroy the economy of America for some time.”

In her opening statement, prosecutor Berger told jurors that Kadir was an engineer who advised on the technical aspects of the plot.

The plot was circulated to radical groups in South America and the Caribbean, including Jamaat Al Muslimeen, which staged a coup attempt in Trinidad in 1990 that resulted in “numerous deaths,” according to court papers.

Abdel Nur, a citizen of Guyana, pleaded guilty June 29 to one count of providing support to terrorists for his role in the plot. Kareem Ibrahim, a citizen of Trinidad, was granted a separate trial at a later date due to a medical condition.

Defreitas pleaded not guilty in 2007. His co-defendants pleaded not guilty in 2008. They have been in custody without bail.

Defreitas and Kadir face life in prison if convicted.

The case is U.S. v. Russell Defreitas, 07-cr-00543, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

–With assistance from Patricia Hurtado in New York. Editors: Mary Romano, Stephen Farr. ©2010 Bloomberg News

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  1. July 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm

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