According to The Associated Press, the Portland terrorism trial of a man accused of trying to blow up a massive car bomb during an Oregon Christmas tree lighting ceremony has begun. The AP reports that Mohamed Mohamud’s trial began with jury selection on Thursday in Portland’s federal courthouse. On Friday, the lawyers involved in the case gave their opening statements.
A lawyer for the Somali-born man told the court that his client was entrapped, according to Reuters.
“Mohamed was no terrorist,” defense attorney Stephen Sady said. “The FBI just went too far. They created a crime that would have never happened without them.”
“In America, we don’t create crime,” Sady added. “The FBI cannot create the very crime they intend to stop. And sometimes, it’s just a matter of going too far.”
However, assistant U.S. Attorney Pamala Holsinger vehemently disagreed with Sady, arguing that Mohamud was already “active” in the world of jihadist websites before the FBI got into contact with him and that without the FBI’s involvement, Mohamud would surely have carried out some sort of terrorist attack in the U.S.
During her opening statement, Holsinger quoted from some of Mohamud’s writings from before he was arrested.
“‘A dark day is coming your way [...] by Allah we have soldiers scattered across the globe,’” she read. “The defendant is one of those soldiers.”
Reuters points out that both the defense attorney and the prosecutor admitted that Mohamud drank alcohol and smoked marijuana as a college student, but Holsinger said that the alleged Oregon car bomb plotter participated in these behaviors to cover up his militant activities.
According to The AP, Holsinger told the court, referring to a picture of the estimated 25,000 people at the Christmas-tree lighting ceremony, “little did they know that the defendant plotted and schemed for months to kill each and every one of them with a massive truck bomb.”
OPB reports that a last-minute email may become evidence in the terrorism case. According to prosecutors, they were preparing a witness when they stumbled across an email that was not part of the case file.
“Given [Mohamud's] fear of police finding him with something illegal, and his frequent marijuana use, he might be an ideal candidate” to approach, read the email between an FBI agent and a colleague in October 2009.
Mohamud was arrested in November 2010 for allegedly attempting to blow up a car bomb at a busy Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The public was never in any danger, however, because the accused’s actions were planned and coordinated by an FBI sting operation.
This case is an extremely important case for future and current terrorism cases due to the entrapment argument that the defendant’s team has put forth. According to The Wall Street Journal, the defendant’s team made it clear in pretrial hearings that they will try to present Mohamud as an impressionable youth manipulated by the FBI to commit a crime.
If the jury finds that Mohamud was entrapped, the implications for the U.S.’s prosecution of terrorism suspects will be severe.
“There is a growing skepticism about these terrorism stings,” Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York School of Law in Queens, told The WSJ. “The Mohamud trial is important because the facts in the case starkly highlight what has been troubling about many of these sting cases all along: the expansive role of government agents and informants.”
The WSJ notes that there are several other domestic-terrorism cases that could be impacted by the outcome of the Portland terrorism trial.
The trial is set to continue on Monday with the presentation of evidence from the prosecution.