Federal judge dismisses terrorism charges against two men in Detroit, citing prosecutors' "zeal"

Friday, September 3rd 2004, 6:21 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ A federal judge dismissed terrorism charges against two men convicted last year, saying the prosecution's zeal to obtain a conviction in the wake of Sept. 11 overcame its professional judgment.

But U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen said the two, as well as a third man, must stand trial again on charges of document fraud.

The judge's decision came after the Justice Department admitted widespread prosecutorial misconduct in the case and asked the judge to dismiss the terrorism charges against two men accused of being part of a Detroit terror cell.

Rosen said the prosecution's ``understandable sense of mission and zeal to obtain a conviction'' in the wake of the Sept. 11 ``overcame not only its professional judgment, but its broader obligations to the justice system and the rule of law.''

The case had been hailed by the Bush Administration as a victory in the war on terror.

The government's change of heart came after a monthslong court-ordered review of documents connected to the case. The Justice Department uncovered much more potentially exculpatory evidence that should have been given to the defense before trial.

Karim Koubriti, 26, and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, 38, were convicted in June 2003 of conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism and to engage in fraud and misuse of visas and other documents. Ahmed Hannan, 36, was convicted of only the fraud charge, and Farouk Ali-Haimoud, 24, was acquitted.

The defense team said they believed the misconduct was severe enough to warrant a dismissal of the fraud charges as well.

``Obviously, we're still going to pursue our claim that the charges should be dismissed, but we're also going to be prepared for trial,'' said Elmardoudi's attorney, William Swor.

The government's filing put most of the blame on lead prosecutor Richard Convertino, who said through his lawyer Wednesday that he had done nothing wrong and was disappointed that the government was not standing by the terrorism convictions.