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Defense's exam of top witness in terror trial ends

Defense attorneys for three Toledo-area men accused of terrorism-related activities concluded their initial questioning of the government's key witness yesterday in U.S. District Court in Toledo.

Over four days of cross-examination, attorneys for Marwan El-Hindi, 45; Mohammad Amawi, 28, and Wassim Mazloum, 26, questioned Darren Griffin about both his past and his time as a confidential informant. Specifically, attorneys for each defense team asked Mr. Griffin about the tactics he used during conversations with the three defendants.

Attorney Charles Boss, who represents Mr. El-Hindi, asked about a February, 2005, meeting between Mr. Griffin and the three men. He questioned Mr. Griffin on whether he was "gathering information," as was his order from the FBI, or instead dominating, and in some cases leading, the conversation into talk of sniper training.

"Recommending and suggesting and seeing what their reaction would be," Mr. Griffin responded to the question.

"Fishing?" Mr. Boss continued.

"In some ways, yes."

"Inflaming their passions, maybe?" Mr. Boss asked.

"No."

Mr. El-Hindi, Mr. Amawi, and Mr. Mazloum are each charged with planning to wage a "holy war." 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 providing "support and resources" to terrorists.

Mr. Amawi and Mr. El-Hindi also are charged with "distributing information regarding explosives."

Throughout his time on the witness stand, Mr. Griffin was questioned extensively by the defense about his use of illegal drugs both during his time in the military and as an informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency, his failure to pay federal taxes over a period of several years, and about the money he owed in child-support payments.

Yesterday's testimony was dominated by a video recording of a lengthy February, 2005, meeting of the three defendants and Mr. Griffin. Mr. El-Hindi's defense team used the recording to show their client's lack of involvement in the discussions.

Mr. Boss asked whether Mr. Griffin believed Mr. El-Hindi was engaged fully in the discussions about "training" for holy war overseas. He noted that several times, Mr. El-Hindi left the conversation in order to serve food.

He also pointed out that Mr. Griffin dominated the conversation, which began with discussions about creating an operational plan for jihad training.

Mr. Griffin testified that Mr. El-Hindi was a participant in the lengthy meeting, and even when he left his seat, he was within range of hearing the conversation. During the actual eating of the dinner, most of the conversation took place in Arabic among the three defendants and focused on the political situation in the Middle East, a conversation in which Mr. El-Hindi actively participated.

The trial, which began with opening statements April 1, will continue tomorrow with Mr. Griffin returning to the stand.

Despite several days of delays, which attorneys say are to be expected in lengthy trials, Judge James Carr told jurors yesterday that the case is still on schedule to be completed by the beginning of July.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.

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