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Terrorism Case Puts Words of Muslim Leader On Trial in Va.

Prosecutors declined to comment for this story. When Timimi was indicted in September, U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty accused him of counseling young men to take up arms against the United States "while bodies were still being pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon."

Attorneys for Timimi also would not comment, but they have indicated in court filings that they plan to raise free speech and First Amendment concerns.

"These statements reflect religious and political beliefs that, while offensive to the vast majority of Americans, are merely reflections of the defendant's Constitutionally protected freedoms of speech, association and religion," the attorneys, Edward B. MacMahon Jr. and Alan H. Yamamoto, wrote.

The case is the culmination of a highly publicized investigation after which 11 Muslim men, all but one from the Washington area, were charged with participating in paramilitary training -- including playing paintball in the Virginia countryside -- to prepare for "holy war" abroad. Timimi was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in that case. Nine of the men were convicted in 2003 and last year.

Some of the men are expected to testify against Timimi.

In 2000 and 2001, Timimi, a U.S. citizen who grew up in the area, was the primary lecturer at the Center for Islamic Information and Education, also known as Dar Al-Arqam, in Falls Church.

On Sept. 16, 2001, the government contends, Timimi met with a group of followers from the mosque. The indictment says he told them that "the time had come" for them to join the "violent jihad" in Afghanistan and that U.S. troops likely to soon arrive there "would be legitimate targets.''

At the same meeting, the indictment says, Timimi approved of a plan for group members to prepare for jihad by obtaining military training from Lashkar-i-Taiba, an organization trying to drive India from the disputed region of Kashmir. The U.S. government has labeled Lashkar a terrorist organization,

Several of the men then went to a Lashkar camp, where they fired assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, court records show.

On Feb. 1, 2003, in what the indictment describes as a "message to his followers,'' Timimi said the space shuttle crash meant that "Western supremacy [especially that of the United States] . . . is coming to a quick end." The message also referred to "the destruction of the Jews.''

In a court filing, prosecutors contend that the message constituted Timimi telling his followers "that the United States was their greatest enemy and should be destroyed.''

Some area Muslims say the government is mischaracterizing a peaceful religious leader. A Web site formed by an organization that calls itself "Dr. Ali Al-Timimi's support committee" lists 21 letters of support. One letter, signed only by "Ahmad," hails Timimi's "beautiful and inspiring lectures" at Dar Al-Arqam. Another, from "Wael,'' concludes that "the government's charges are bogus.''

In a response to e-mail questions from The Washington Post in 2003, Timimi said that he never has advocated violence and that "many of my best qualities are simply because I am an American." He acknowledged that he "has opinions that go counter to the mainstream of American society."

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