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Monday, October 06, 2003  

Law: Portland 7 defendants await evidentiary ruling

As the Portland Seven continues to shrink, there is new potential trouble for one of the two remaining reachable defendants. He has allegedly been linked to a defendant in a terrorism case in another state.

PORTLAND - Federal prosecutors in Virginia said they have linked the leader of a U.S. Islamic charity arrested this week to Portland terrorism suspect Patrice Lumumba Ford.

Ford received a salary from a local chapter of the Virginia-based group, the American Muslim Foundation, in fall 2000 and spring 2001, according to checks presented by prosecutors in an Alexandria, Va., federal courtroom.

Ford worked as a driver for the charity, picking up Muslim refugees at the Portland airport and helping them get settled, according to local Muslim leaders.

. . .The documents came to light in a federal case against Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, head of the American Muslim Foundation. Al-Amoudi was arrested and accused of acting as a courier to funnel money from Libya to terrorist groups in Syria. He was detained in England last month with $340,000 in U.S. currency, according to an affidavit.

Al-Amoudi said that his fund-raising travels were intended for Muslim organizations in the United States, according to court papers. But the government contends that he was among a group of Muslim activists involved in a web of charities raising money for terrorist groups.

Ford and Jeffrey Battle are the last of the defendants in custody to maintain their innocence. The only female defendant, Battle's wife, pleaded guilty to lesser charges Sept. 26.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- October Lewis, one of seven Portland-area residents charged with conspiring to help Al Qaeda and the Taliban fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty Friday to money laundering.

She will serve three years in minimum or medium-security federal prison.

In exchange, she will testify against her former husband, Jeffrey Leon Battle and another defendant, according to the agreement read in [the] federal courthouse Friday.

In addition, prosecutors dropped charges against her of conspiracy to levy war against the United States, to contribute services to Al Qaeda and the Taliban and to provide material support and resources to Al Qaeda.

She could have faced life in prison if convicted on all counts.

The Bilal brothers entered guilty pleas to more serious charges Sept. 18.

Two brothers who were among seven people accused of aiding terrorists pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to help al-Qaida and the Taliban during the war in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Bilal, 25, and his brother, Muhammad Bilal, 23, appeared before U.S. District Judge Robert Jones to formally enter their pleas. Jones had announced the plea agreement Wednesday.

The Portland brothers also pleaded guilty to firearms charges in exchange for having the main charge of conspiracy to levy war against the United States dismissed.

In the plea deal, Ahmed Bilal agreed to a prison term of 10 to 14 years, while his younger brother agreed to eight to 14 years. Jones did not set a sentencing date.

The brothers had been accused of traveling to China with four other men shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in a failed attempt to enter Afghanistan and fight with the Taliban.

Maher "Mike" Hawash had entered a similar plea and agreed to testify against his co-defendants Aug. 8, beginning the crumbling of the Portland Seven's defense.

Ford and Battle, who are said to have some of the strongest evidence against them, are scheduled to be tried in January.

The remaining defendant, Habis al Saoub, is thought to have not returned to the United States from the Middle East. He is reportedly the leader of the group.

The men have said they would have taken up arms in defense of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Defense attorneys for Battle and Ford have attempted to prevent evidence gathered using new anti-terrorism laws from being admitted.

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys are dueling over whether some of the evidence against the Portland Seven -- collected under the USA Patriot Act -- should be suppressed.

In response to a defense request to block some evidence, prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones to find that the act's foreign intelligence-gathering provisions were used properly against two of the defendants, Jeffrey Leon Battle and Patrice Lumumba Ford, because they were "agents of a foreign power."

But at the same time -- citing national security concerns -- the prosecutors declined to give the defendants the information they say proves the assertion.

Instead, they asked Jones to rule on the contested evidence based on classified information provided only to him. And they asked Jones to keep the information secret under a provision of the USA Patriot Act that allows him to do so.

. . .The contested evidence includes intercepted and recorded conversations on residential and cell phones belonging to the two targeted defendants, Battle and Ford; e-mail exchanges on their computers; and conversations picked up by an electronic monitoring device, or "bug," that had been planted in the Southwest Portland apartment that Battle shared with his ex-wife, Portland Seven defendant October Martinique Lewis.

The motion to suppress will be argued Oct. 16.

Note: This article contains more information about the applicability of the Patriot Act to the Portland Seven case.

8:36 AM