New York Times: The trial of two men accused of plotting to attack Kennedy International Airport took an unexpected twist on Wednesday when prosecutors suggested that one of the men, a former government official in Guyana, had spied on behalf of the Iranian government.
The New York Times
By A. G. SULZBERGER
The trial of two men accused of plotting to attack Kennedy International Airport took an unexpected twist on Wednesday when prosecutors suggested that one of the men, a former government official in Guyana, had spied on behalf of the Iranian government.
The former government official, Abdul Kadir, admitted under cross-examination that in the mid-1980s he drafted reports about Guyana’s economy, foreign policy and military for the Iranian ambassador to Venezuela, which included details like the low morale in the army. The hand-written documents included a “five-year development plan” that made reference to infiltrating the military, police and other government agencies.
Mr. Kadir, testifying in United States District Court in Brooklyn for the second straight day, appeared surprised by the direction of the questioning. He initially denied having been in contact with Iranian officials, but admitted to it after being confronted with the material he had written. Nevertheless he said he was not a spy, insisting he was focused instead on promoting Islam and that the letters he sent included no state secrets but information freely available in the newspapers.
“Is it fair to say you’re a spy for the Iranian government?” asked Marshall L. Miller, the lead federal prosecutor on the case.
“No sir,” replied Mr. Kadir, a Muslim convert who was mayor of the second-largest city in Guyana before serving in Parliament.
Though he was adamant that he was not working for the Iranian government, his ties to Iran run deep, and he admitted that he had continued to correspond with Iranian officials. He traveled to Iran twice and sent several of his children there to receive religious training. Prosecutors noted that he had repeatedly communicated with Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian diplomat who was accused of directing a deadly terrorist attack on a Jewish center in Argentina.
Mr. Kadir was en route to Iran when he was arrested three years ago, carrying a computer drive with photos of him and his children posing with guns, which prosecutors suggested he would use to demonstrate his ability to stage an attack. He said he was celebrating the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and that the guns in the photos were just toys. “My relationship with Iran is that Iran is a center of religious learning,” he said.
The revelations of the surprising depth of the connections prompted questions about the decision to allow Mr. Kadir to testify. Until Wednesday, he had appeared to be a secondary figure, with most of the focus on his co-defendant Russell Defreitas, accused as the mastermind of the plot to blow up the fuel tanks at Kennedy Airport, where he used to work as a cargo handler.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.
“Now this has become a case in which Defreitas is a footnote,” said Karen J. Greenberg, the executive director of the Center on Law and Security at New York University, who has been watching the testimony. “This is the story prosecutors have been trying to tell for years.”
Mr. Kadir strongly denied wanting to involve himself in a terrorist plot that he says was unexpectedly broached by Mr. Defreitas. But pressed repeatedly to explain why he never rejected the plan, he offered a host of reasons, including his hope that they would financially support his mosque, his expectation that they could be rehabilitated and his belief in hospitality.
“As Muslims, I think it would be un-Islamic to tell them to get out of my house if they came to me with an idea I didn’t agree with,” he said.