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6/14/03 - TERRORISTS & THE RULE OF LAW - 2003-06-16

A jury in Detroit, Michigan, has convicted two members of a "sleeper cell," Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi and Karim Koubriti, of conspiring to support Islamic terrorists. A third cell member, Ahmed Hannan, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit document fraud. A fourth defendant was acquitted of all charges.

The convicted men are Moroccan immigrants who worked at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Six days after the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, federal agents searched an apartment shared by two of the men and found forged passports, visas, and other documents. They found over one-hundred audio tapes exhorting terrorism, including the murder of Christians and Jews. And they found sketches, photos, and videotapes of would-be terrorist targets.

The four defendants have the same rights under the law that all Americans have, regardless of their religion or ethnic background. And they received the same due process. They were indicted by a grand jury based on evidence obtained through judicial warrants. They were tried by a jury of their peers. They were represented by legal counsel in a trial that lasted eight weeks. That trial was open to the public and was well-attended by journalists from many parts of the world. The three convicted defendants are expected to exercise their right to appeal the guilty verdicts to higher courts.

The three men convicted in Detroit are among some two-hundred-forty suspects arrested since September 11th, 2001. More than half of them have pled guilty to, or have been convicted of, charges involving terrorism or related crimes.

The U.S. remains mindful of the need to balance security concerns with freedom, as Robert Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, points out: "Much of what we do enhances our security without undercutting our freedoms, and it is always a balance. . . . The one thing that we do not want is to have the pendulum swing so much that we are sacrificing our freedom for security and giving the terrorists what they are seeking."

The conviction of the Detroit sleeper cell members makes clear the determination of the U.S. to bring terrorists to justice -- and to apply the rule of law in doing so.