A Pakistani man accused of aiding a terrorist has won the right to present statements made by captive alleged al Qaeda operatives in his defense, the first time a jury would hear such testimony in a U.S. courtroom.
Uzair Paracha, whose trial began Tuesday, is accused of trying to help an al Qaeda member obtain immigration documents to enter the United States and of managing $200,000 linked to the terrorist group.
U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein ruled Monday that Paracha could present statements made by Majid Khan and Ammar Baluchi. Paracha's lawyer says information provided by the alleged al Qaeda operatives whom Paracha met abroad will exonerate his client. The federal jury in Paracha's case would be the first to review paraphrased statements from captives the government says are al Qaeda members.
Stein also ruled, however, that Paracha cannot use testimony from top al Qaeda lieutenant Khalid Sheik Mohammed, saying his information is not relevant to the case. Stein also denied Paracha access to testimony from Paracha's father, who is held in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The judge refused to order Khan and Baluchi to appear in the courtroom, siding with the government, which claimed that doing so would raise national security issues. Although the government provided the statements, it will neither confirm nor deny the men are in custody.
Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of conspiring in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, won the right to use statements from al Qaeda prisoners in his case. He presented that information to a federal judge in Virginia, not a jury, and pleaded guilty before trial.