Judge delays ruling on bail for terror suspects in N.Y.

Decision is postponed as new evidence emerges

October 03, 2002|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

NEW YORK - A federal judge has delayed a decision on granting bail to six Buffalo-area men accused of receiving terrorist training at an al-Qaida camp, amid new evidence introduced this week by prosecutors.

U.S. Magistrate H. Kenneth Schroeder, who had been expected to rule today on granting bail, postponed the decision until next week at the request of defense attorneys. He scheduled a hearing today in a Buffalo federal court to hear arguments on new allegations tying one of the defendants to a document about suicide bombings, written in Arabic.

The latest evidence, which had been filed in court papers by the Joint Terrorism Task Force of Western New York, also suggests that some of the men from Lackawanna - a small steel town south of Buffalo - had used multiple identities. All the defendants are U.S. citizens of Yemeni descent.

"We're not going to rush this thing through," Schroeder said after meeting with attorneys on both sides.

Last month, Schroeder held a three-day bail hearing on the case of the so-called Lackawanna Six. Federal prosecutors have said the six men should remain in custody because they pose a flight risk and could threaten public security. Investigators allege that the men are members of a sleeper cell who heard a speech by Osama bin Laden while they spent time in the camp in the summer of 2001 and could be called upon by al-Qaida operatives to commit terrorist acts.

Defense attorneys, however, have said that their clients are innocent and that keeping them in jail until their trial begins, which could be more than a year away, would be punitive.

The defendants could receive maximum sentences of 15 years if they are convicted. U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., who is leading the prosecution, said that the newest evidence - especially the suicide bombing manual, which was found in a weekend search of one suspect's apartment - constituted "clear and convincing evidence" that the six men would pose a threat if they were granted bail.

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