By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – An American citizen will go to trial in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday on charges that he supported al Qaeda and helped prepare a 2009 car bomb attack on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.
Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, 31, has pleaded not guilty to charges that include conspiring to murder Americans and use a weapon of mass destruction, and supporting a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Jurors were scheduled to hear opening arguments in the case Tuesday morning. U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.
U.S. prosecutors in 2015 accused Al Farekh, who was born in Texas, of conspiring to support al Qaeda by traveling with two fellow students from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada to Pakistan with the intention of fighting against American forces.
They also charged that Al Farekh helped prepare a vehicle-borne explosive device used in a Jan. 19, 2009 attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan. The base was not identified.
Prosecutors have said an accomplice detonated one device, while Al Farekh’s fingerprints were found on packing tape for the second device, which another accomplice carried but failed to detonate.
One of the other university students Al Farekh traveled with in 2007, Ferid Imam, has also been indicted, though his whereabouts are unknown.
Prosecutors said Imam provided training at an al Qaeda camp in Pakistan in 2008 to three men later found guilty of plotting a bombing attack in the New York City subway system.
Authorities have said that before going to Pakistan, Farekh and Imam frequently watched videos promoting violent jihad, including online lectures by Anwar Al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born, Yemen-based militant preacher affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was killed in a U.S. drone attack in 2011.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)