Home > Crime and Security, Foreign Relations > Jury finds 2 Guyanese guilty in JFK terror plot

Jury finds 2 Guyanese guilty in JFK terror plot

By A. G. Sulzberger (NYTimes Reporter)

NEW YORK/ GUYANA -A federal jury found two Guyanese men guilty on Monday of conspiring to blow up Kennedy International Airport, concluding a month-long trial that centered on the men’s plan to set off a series of explosions along a fuel pipeline that cuts through the city.

The verdict came after five days of deliberations before Judge Dora L. Irizarry in United States District Court in Brooklyn.

Mr. Defreitas and Mr. Kadir face possible sentences of life in prison after their convictions on five counts of conspiring to commit acts of terrorism. Mr. Defreitas was also convicted of surveillance of an airport; Mr. Kadir was acquitted of that charge. Two other men, Abdel Nur and Donald Nero, have pleaded guilty to participating in the plot. Another man, Kareem Ibrahim, is still awaiting trial.

The plot to blow up the airport never advanced beyond the conceptual stage, and the planning sessions, some of which were recorded by a confidential informant, were at times grandiose and absurd. Suggestions of destroying the American economy vied with calls for a “ninja-style attack.”

The defendants, Russell M. Defreitas and Abdul Kadir, had been monitored from an early stage in the plot by the informant, who posed as a member of the group, which included a number of other participants. The informant, Steven Francis, had recorded the men during surveillance missions to the airport and on international trips to secure financial and logistical support for the attack.

The recordings were used by federal prosecutors to portray Mr. Defreitas, a United States citizen and a former cargo handler at the airport, as the “homegrown extremist” who was the mastermind and driving force behind the plot.

Mr. Kadir, a prominent Guyanese politician who served in parliament and as mayor of a major city, initially emerged as a secondary figure, one of several co-conspirators portrayed as facilitating the plot by providing advice and contacts. But in testifying in his own defense, he later opened himself to questions about whether he had spied for Iran.

The case, with its international reach, high-profile target and unusual cast of characters, drew headlines when the men were arrested more than three years ago. The United States attorney in Brooklyn at the time, Roslynn R. Mauslopf, said that the attack had the potential to cause “unfathomable damage, deaths and destruction.”

But as time went on, more was revealed about the plot and the unlikelihood of its success (the fuel pipeline, for example, had safety mechanisms that would have prevented cascading explosions), as well as the level of government involvement (the informant had played a somewhat enabling role in pushing forward the plot).

Once the trial began on June 30, intrigue grew over which of the two defendants actually presented the greater threat. Mr. Defreitas had been the focus of the prosecutors’ opening arguments, but by closing arguments, Mr. Kadir’s name was mentioned nearly as often.

The voluminous recordings played in court left little doubt that Mr. Defreitas had tried to push the plot forward: he videotaped the airport, traveled to Guyana and Trinidad searching for like-minded Muslim militants, and frequently boasted of the damage the attack would cause – promising that it would be “worse than the World Trade Center.” A prosecutor said the tapes showed him “doing everything he can to make his nightmare a reality.”

Mr. Defreitas, a frail, gray-haired man who watched the trial in a listless slouch, was portrayed by his lawyers as what one of them said was “a man with a small mind, a big mouth and an ugly imagination.” They said he lacked the resources or sophistication to pull off the attack without the constant assistance of Mr. Francis, who purchased a camera for their surveillance missions and had to instruct him how to use it.

“Russell Defreitas can’t mastermind his way out of the on-off switch on a video camera,” one of his lawyers said.

In contrast, Mr. Kadir’s profile grew during the trial, particularly after his decision to testify in his own defense. Until that point, Mr. Kadir’s contributions to the plot were vague, like suggesting that the men download a computer program made by Google to view satellite photos of the airport; agreeing to store money for the plot in a bank account for his mosque; and helping to establish the code name for the attack: “the chicken farm.”

But once on the stand, he was confronted with evidence of his ties to Iran, including letters he wrote to the Iranian ambassador to Venezuela and to an Iranian diplomat who has been accused of leading a major terrorist plot in South America.

Mr. Kadir denied spying for the country. In closing arguments, a prosecutor called Mr. Kadir, cautious and careful, “a man of a different mold” who provided “voice and authority to this terrorist plot.”

Francesca Laguardia, director of research for the Center on Law and Security at New York University, who studies terrorism cases and was present for most of the trial, said the Iranian connections suddenly provided legitimacy to a trial that had been hamstrung by the contrast between the allegations and the appearance of Mr. Defreitas, a supposed mastermind who inspired “no fear whatsoever.”

“One of the interesting things we learned is how much doesn’t come out in these court cases. We never would have found out all these connections with Iran, if he hadn’t gotten on the stand. That really changed the case,” Ms. Laguardia said. “Maybe it’s an example of the reason why law enforcement takes cases seriously that the rest of us don’t take seriously, that don’t seem to pose any threats at the time of arrest.”

  1. August 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Pesonly i think that it is a very good website because it gives you the latest news from Guyana,also i think it gives children like me an upgrade on reading more about Guyana news.

  2. GeorgeThomas
    December 19, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    It is the height of hypocrisy to talk about fighting terrorism while harbouring men who are wanted for or helping to destroy passenger airplanes.

    On October 6, 1976, Cubana Flight 455 was scheduled to fly from Guyana to Havana, Cuba via Trinidad, Barbados, and Kingston. Two time bombs, were planted on the aircraft at Piarco, Trinidad, by agents working for Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch. The bombs exploded in the aircraft’s rear lavatory, nine minutes after takeoff from Barbados, causing the plane to crash into the water. All 48 passengers and 25 crew aboard the plane died: 57 Cubans, 11 Guyanese, and five North Koreans. Among the dead were all 24 members of the 1975 national Cuban Fencing team that had just won all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship; many were teenagers.

    Documents released by the USA National Security Archive on May 3, 2007 reveal the links the mastermind, American trained terrorist, Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles, had to the 1976 Cubana airline bombing and other terrorist attacks and plots, including a British West Indian Airways office in Barbados and the Guyanese Embassy in Trinidad.

    Posada left a bloody swath of terror and destruction across the Gulf of Mexico. By his own admission, the CIA-trained and Miami-funded Posada also planned bombings of Cuban hotels, cafes, and dancehalls. In 1997, one of Posada’s agents in Cuba detonated a bomb at a Cuban hotel which killed Italian tourist Fabio de Celmo. Posada admitted to plotting those bombings.

    In 1999, Posada was convicted in Panama and imprisoned for attempting to kill Cuba Pres. Castro at a 2001 summit in Panama. However, Panama’s then-president Mireya Moscoso pardoned him in 2004. At the same time $4 million mysteriously appeared in her Swiss bank account.

    Posada illegally entered the United States in 2005, and Homeland Security agents ignored the hemisphere’s best-known terrorist until he held a press conference. Then, embarrassed that they had not grabbed him when he entered the country without a visa, they gently arrested him and charged him with “illegal entry.”

    Just as the Bush family has been directly tied to the Bin Laden family, so, too, have they been tied to Posada Carriles. Just as the Bin Ladens were the only planes in American airspace to leave the country after 9/11, so too is Luis Posada Carriles being shuffled through the system to fall out the other side completely free and anonymous.

    Will President Obama extradite Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles, to Venezuela and risk that he will reveal the secrets of four decades of Bush’s involvement in organising a facist international, or will President Obama protect him and stand exposed before the world as another protector of an international terrorist apparatus. The U.S. government knows how many crimes it has committed, hence all the continued secrecy by the Obama administration. Everything in Washington stinks.

    “The terrorists Posada Carriles, and Osama bin Laden have become symbols of the US methods of hemispheric domination and its double standard: on the one hand, they declare a global war on terrorism and, on the other, they use it.”

    It is time to end the mockery of justice, peace, and order that has existed for too long.


    Why does this terrorist Posada Carriles get such protection?

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