January 17, 2013

Rana Lawyers Plan to Appeal Conviction

Attorneys for a Chicago businessman sentenced to 14 years in prison for supporting a plot to bomb a Danish newspaper say they'll appeal his conviction.

Fifty-two-year-old Tahawwur Rana was sentenced Thursday.

His lawyers say U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber did the right thing by not adding more years for actual terrorism because it didn't apply to Rana.

Jurors in 2011 convicted Rana of providing support for a Pakistani group, and for supporting a never-carried-out plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

But they cleared Rana of more serious charge of involvement in a three-day rampage in Mumbai, India.

Rana's lawyers say they plan to appeal the conviction because the cases should have been tried separately.

October 11, 2012

Chicago Car-Bomb Suspect Plot Pleads Not Guilty

The 19-year-old Chicago teenager accused of plotting to bomb a downtown Chicago bar was in court again Thursday.

Dressed in orange jail clothes, Adel Daoud looked cheerful during Thursday's arraignment. He even joked to Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman about the maximum life sentence he faced, telling her it couldn't be longer.

Asked how he pleaded, the bushy-haired Hillside teen said politely, "Not guilty."

As Daoud stood before the judge, his mother Mona sat whispering in Arabic to her husband Ahmed. She complained that Daoud’s hair should be cut and that he looked like a "za'ran" — roughly translated as "thug."

As Daoud smiled and looked over at her, she said “My sweetheart is like an idiot.”

Daoud's mother was overseas when her son was first arrested last month, and this was her first appearance in court. Throughout the hearing, she kept asking questions about who the different people were in the courtroom.

At the end of the hearing, Daoud's parents tried to stand up and walk toward their son, but the U.S. Marshall ordered them to sit down.

Afterward, while speaking to reporters, Daoud's attorney Thomas Durkin characterized his client as a teenager who was impressionable and didn't really understand the severity of the situation he was in.

While Daoud’s mother was unemotional, her husband was far more upset.

“This is the best kid. Not because he’s my son," he said holding back tears. "If you question school, if you question the neighbor, if you question everybody he know Adel, he never say to you one word bad.”

Meantime, Daoud's attorney Thomas Durkin told the judge that he wants to be privy to classified documents that the government is witholding. He says he'll argue the plot was the idea of agents, not his client.

A status hearing is set for Oct. 18. Lawyers for both sides hope to go to trial by early Spring.

October 08, 2012

Illinois Man Faces Terrorism Charge in Oklahoma Bomb Plot

An Illinois man faces terrorism charges in Oklahoma where police say he was assembling Molotov cocktails as part of a plot to blow up dozens of churches.

An affidavit filed Friday in Ottawa County District Court says 23-year-old Gregory Arthur Weiler II of Elk Grove Village, Ill., was arrested Thursday at a motel, where police found bomb-making materials along with torn bits of paper with directions for making Molotov cocktails.

The affidavit says when officers patched the pieces of paper together, they also found a list of 48 local churches, a hand-drawn map of the churches grouped and circled, and a written outline of Weiler's plan to plant bombs.

Weiler was charged Friday with threatening to use an explosive or incendiary device and is being held without bond.

September 13, 2012

Peoria Area Relative Remembers Slain U.S. Ambassador

A Peoria-area musician is remembering former U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died this week as protestors stormed and burned the U-S Consulate in Libya.

David Commanday, who is with the Heartland Festival Orchestra, was Stevens’ step-brother. Commanday said Stevens was a remarkable man, who had a strong commitment to peace.

“One of the comments that really struck me was his ability to be in a room and respond sympathetically to both Palestinians and Israelis at the same time, in the same room," Commanday said. "He was such a genuine man, and I’m really proud that we have people like Chris representing us.”

Commanday said he is grateful his step brother and all those in the military and diplomatic service have committed to making the world a better place, even though they’re paying a real and personal cost.

Meanwhile, there is no word on arrests in Libya related to the attack that claimed Stevens’ life, along with three other Americans.


September 07, 2012

Chicago Man Designated a Terrorist Sues U.S. Government

A Chicago-area man designated as a terrorist is suing the federal government so he can do simple things like buy newspapers or gifts for his wife. Muhammad Salah, an American of Palestinian descent, was designated a terrorist in 1995. The designation means Americans are prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with him, which has made living in Chicago’s suburbs difficult.

Salah’s legal saga began in 1993 when he was arrested by Israeli police in the West Bank. Salah was carrying about $100,000 that he said was for Hamas' humanitarian work helping impoverished Palestinians, but after a 54-day interrogation, Israeli agents said he admitted being a military leader in Hamas. Salah’s American lawyers say the confession was the result of torture.

In 1995 the U.S. government designated Salah a terrorist. 

In 1997 Salah was released from an Israeli prison and returned to the U.S., living in Bridgeview, a suburb southwest of Chicago, with his wife and four children.

In 2005 Salah was charged in Chicago with terrorism based on the same events and allegations he’d done time for in Israel. His Israeli interrogators actually came and testified in the trial, but jurors found Salah not guilty of the main terrorism charge. They did find him guilty of obstruction of justice for lying in a civil suit about his involvement with Hamas. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

He’s served his time for that, but his designation as a terrorist remains. His attorneys say the 17-year-old restrictions prevent him from opening a bank account, or having a job, or engaging in basic financial transactions like buying a ticket for a movie.

In bringing a lawsuit to challenge the terrorist designation Salah’s lawyers say there was no trial, or hearing, no administrative record on which the designation is based, no mechanism for appeal and no end date for the designation. And they say that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control didn’t reconsider the designation in the wake of the jury’s finding that Salah was not guilty of terrorism.

The Treasury Department would not comment for this story because the lawsuit is pending, but a department official speaking on background points out that the department has issued licenses to Salah to allow him to have a bank account, draw a salary and engage in basic financial transactions.

Salah’s attorneys say he did get a license and after an extensive search one bank agreed to open an account for him, but the bank later cut off the account because the reporting requirements to the Treasury Department were too onerous and made Salah's business unprofitable.

August 29, 2012

New Illinois Law: More prison for Terror Threats

People convicted in Illinois of attempting to commit terrorism soon may have to serve more of any prison sentence they get.

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed into law a measure requiring that anyone convicted of such crimes serve 85 percent of their sentence. The new law takes effect in January.

Under current state law, a prisoner gets one day of good-conduct credit for each day served behind bars.

House Bill 5121 was motivated by the Madison County case involving Olutosin Oduwole.

The aspiring rapper was convicted of attempting to make a terrorist threat through some writings found in his car while he attended Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. He was sentenced to five years in prison, although he may be eligible for parole after serving half of that.

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