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Published: Tuesday, 5/6/2008

FBI agent takes stand in Toledo terror trial

BLADE STAFF

One of the FBI agents leading the investigation of three local men charged with terrorism-related activities testified Tuesday about the role of Darren Griffin, the government s cooperating witness in the case, and the instructions Mr. Griffin received throughout the investigation.

The trial of Mohammad Amawi, 28, Marwan El-Hindi, 45, and Wassim Mazloum, 26, continued in U.S. District Court in Toledo Tuesday. Special Agent Shannon Coats of the Joint Terrorism Task Force testified that Mr. Griffin was paid to gather information and later gather evidence about possible threats against the United States.

Agent Coats testimony followed a weeks-long inquiry of Mr. Griffin by both the government and the defense, which ended Friday. Mr. Griffin testified that he used hidden devices to record interactions with the three defendants, including requests by the three men to "train" for holy war overseas.

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 providing "support and resources" to terrorists.

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

During questioning from the federal prosecutor Tuesday, Agent Coats said Mr. Griffin was sought out by the FBI after learning about him from the Drug Enforcement Agency, where he was an informant. Agent Coats added that Mr. Griffin was asked to develop himself as an Islamic extremist, attend social gatherings in the Toledo Muslim community, and interact with people of interest.

The three defendants were not originally among that list of people of interest, Agent Coats said.

The agent testified that the FBI s primary objectives were to keep Mr. Griffin and his family safe, to verify the veracity of the information he provided, and to collect information and later evidence of any criminal activity.

He added that the FBI reviewed each of the recordings Mr. Griffin made of his interactions with the defendants. Agent Coats also said that the FBI was aware of all of Mr. Griffin s interactions and all of the acts he participated in.

What Mr. Griffin was not allowed to do was train the three defendants in explosives or sniper tactics, Agent Coats testified.

"We absolutely were not going to allow Mr. Griffin to give specific guidance on how to build an [improvised explosive device] or how to conduct a sniper attack," Agent Coats said. "We wanted to draw the investigation out as long as we could to collect as much information as possible about other threats that the defendants spoke about but he was not to give them information on how to build an IED or how to conduct a sniper attack."

The previously recorded testimony of Jihad Dahabi was also played for jurors Tuesday morning. Mr. Dahabi, who was not available to testify in person, was recorded April 24, 2007, and was questioned by both the defense and the government.

Mr. Dahabi, who is an accountant, met with Mr. El-Hindi and Mr. Griffin in 2005 when the men attempted to set up a non-profit organization to obtain grant money. Mr. Dahabi testified that he did not send in the completed paperwork because he was concerned about "fraud" and "terrorism" on the part of the two men.

He said during his testimony that his concerns evolved from comments made by Mr. Griffin during the meeting.

Agent Coats will return to the stand Tuesday afternoon for additional questions from the government as well as to be questioned by the defense.



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