The trial of 12 Hanafi Muslims on charges of murder and kidnaping bogged down yesterday as the prosecution sought to disprove contentions by Harmaas Abdul Khaalis that he and his alleged followers seized three downtown Washington buildings last March because each was merely following the will of Allah instead of a conspiracy of their own.
The problem was whether the government could introduce itno evidence a recording of a telephone conversation in which a voice says that all were following the orders of Khaalis.
It arose on what was expected to be the last day of the evidentiary phase of the D.C. Superior COurt trial, which began May 31. The tape was to be the last piece of evidence, and prosecutors wished to use it to rebut Khaalis' claims about the plans being those of Allah. Khaalis, 55, was the only witness for the defense, which opened its case Monday and finished it Tuesday.
After more than three hours of testimony and legal argument - most of it out of the presence of the jury - the problem remained, and its resolution was left for today.
Its crux is the identification of one of the speakers. In an effort to resolve the situation. Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio ordered that the tape in question be spliced together with at least two other tapes in which the speakers are known for purposes of easy comparison. The composite is scheduled to be played in court today.
In the course of the afternoon, the tape was played. A reporter in New Jersey was heard to ask who had selected in international headquarters of B'nai B'rith, the Jewish service organization: the Islamic Center at 2551 Massachusetts Ave. NW, and the District Building as targets for the Hanafi actions.
"Our leader, in his wisdom that Allah gave him, chose the locations," a voice replied.
The government contends that the voice was the same as that identified on other tapes as belonging to Abdul Rahman, 38, also known as Clyde Young, one of three Hanafis alleged to have been at the Islamic Center.
"Your leader gave you the locations?" the reporter asked.
"Yes," said the voice.
"Is the District Building - is that related to your over-all plan?"
"Oh, very much, so yes," the voice replied.
The events at the District Building have taken on a critical importance in the case. Although a total of 149 hostages were taken at the three buildings, it was only at the District Building that a slaying occurred. Maurice Williams, 24, a radio reporter, was cut down by a shotgun blast as the incidents there began.
Only two Hanafis are accused of having taken the District Buiding. However, all 12 are charged with the murder of Williams on the theory that all were acting as members of a conspiracy. The purpose of the alleged conspiracy, the government says was to force officials to turn over to the Hanafis five Black Muslims convicted of murdering seven members of the family of Khaalis in 1973.
On Tuesday, Khaalis testified under cross-examination that the plan to take the buildings was that of Allah and that he and his alleged followers acted as they had according to the dictates of their individual consciences.
The government wanted to get the tape of the telephone conversation into evidence to undermine that contention.
But Christopher Hoge, Abdul Rahman's court-appointed attorney, said the voice that replied to the New Jersey reporter's questions was not that of his client. He asked Judge Nunzio to direct that another tape - one on which the speaker identifies himself as Rahman - be played for comparison.
Nunzio did so. He then decided that the results were inconclusive and ordered the further tapes prepared for today.
Earlier yesterday the government recalled to the witness stand Henry M. Siegel, who was taken hostage at the B'nai B'rith building at 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW.
Siegel testified early in the trial that he had seen Khaalis strike Charles Edward Mason, known was "Eddie the Painter," with a pistol, knocking him unconscious. Khaalis testified Tuesday that it had been an accident, that the pistol, a 41 magnum, had slipped in his hand adn struck Mason.