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Published: Thursday, 4/10/2008

More tapes heard by jurors in Toledo terror trial

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

While watching videos downloaded from the Internet showing guerrilla soldiers attacking a compound in Iraq, Marwan El-Hindi expressed a fear during a casual meeting at Mohammad Amawi's apartment that the videos could be traced and, possibly, that they could be monitored.

"I am one of those people who are ," he started.

"Being watched," Mr. Amawi offered.

"Being watched big time," Mr. El-Hindi said.

The exchange, captured by a microphone hidden in the folds of Darren Griffin's clothing, was one of many conversations played for jurors in U.S. District Court in Toledo yesterday.

Over four days of testimony, Mr. Griffin has presented nearly 14 hours of video and audio-taped evidence in the trial of Mr. Amawi, 28; Mr. El-Hindi, 45, and Wassim I. Mazloum, 26.

The three men are each charged with planning to wage a "holy war," using skills they learned on the Internet. In the indictment released after their February, 2006, arrests, the government alleged that the three conspired to kill or injure people in the Middle East - including U.S. troops serving in Iraq - as well as provide "support and resources" to terrorists.

Mr. Amawi and Mr. El-Hindi also are charged with "distributing information regarding explosives." If convicted, the men face up to life in prison.

The recordings, taken with hidden devices over a two-year period, reveal the extremist views shared by the defendants. Posing as a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces unit who was disenchanted with American policy overseas, Mr. Griffin collected more than 300 hours of conversations with the three men that he then turned over to the FBI.

Throughout the recorded conversations played yesterday were several with Mr. Amawi while the men were crowded around his computer. There, he could be seen on video downloading various clips from a Web site dedicated to the mujahedeen, or Muslim soldiers engaged in jihad.

Many of the downloaded videos, including one showing step-by-step instructions on how to build a bomb vest, were put on disks at Mr. Griffin's request. The men spent countless minutes discussing how to successfully download the training videos as well as how to create a network among their computers.

At one point, Mr. Griffin offers several laptops to Mr. Amawi for transportation to his "brothers" in Syria. Saying that they would offer a means of communication, he asks Mr. Amawi to contact the men overseas.

During opening statements last week, Mr. Amawi's attorney painted the young man as someone who said what Mr. Griffin wanted to hear. Timothy Ivey said that Mr. Amawi never had contacts in Syria - something he claimed Mr. Griffin would learn when the informant accompanied Mr. Amawi overseas in 2005.

Until yesterday's testimony, most of what the government presented was conversations among the men.

Yesterday, government prosecutors showed jurors a sign-in sheet from Cleland's indoor shooting range on Airport Highway, where Mr. Griffin's and Mr. Amawi's signatures proved the men went there to shoot guns on Jan. 21, 2005.

In a later conversation, Mr. Griffin could be heard teaching Mr. Amawi how to break down and assemble a handgun.

Peppered throughout the recorded conversations is Mr. Griffin's suggestion that the group find a place to train. At one point, Mr. El-Hindi suggests the mosque on Monroe Street - a site that Mr. Griffin points out won't be suitable for weapons training.

Mr. Griffin's testimony is expected to continue today and last for several more days before defense attorneys will be able to question him.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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