American FBI’s use of a paid informant with a criminal record to trap and arrest four California youths for alleged intention to join an “al-Qaeda training camp” in Afghanistan has drawn criticism from the suspect’s family and friends as well as local Muslim leaders.
Defense lawyer of one of the accused slammed the case on Wednesday for principally depending on evidence collected by an FBI ‘confidential informant’ that had previously been convicted of drug-related charges, major US daily The Los Angeles Times
reports on Thursday.
The undercover informant reportedly received USD250,000 from the FBI in addition to "immigration benefits" for his ‘intelligence’ work against the suspects over the past four years, during which he infiltrated the group and wore recording devices that provided “evidence crucial to the case.”
The federal complaint unsealed this week against the four men was based in large part on incriminating statements recorded by the well-paid informant.
A “criminal complaint” unsealed by US authorities late on Monday accuses the four of “conspiring to take part in activities they intended as preparation for deadly attacks on Americans overseas, including US military personnel,” the FBI announced on Tuesday.
The domestic US intelligence agency claimed in a statement that the suspected ringleader of the group, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, an Afghan-born naturalized US citizen, recruiting co-defendants Ralph Deleon, 23, and Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, “who converted to Islam under his influence,” to engage in “violent Jihad.”
Deleon and Vidriales are in turn accused of enlisting a third man, Arifeen David Gojali, 21, to join their alleged adventure.
"What jumps out to me was the footnote in the affidavit that said the confidential source was paid a quarter million dollars," said attorney Randolph K. Driggs, who represents Ralph Deleon. "We see the same thing in drug cases.... Informants push and prod until someone gives in. They have a financial incentive.''
Driggs further emphasized that the FBI and other American law enforcement agencies have aggressively sought out potential “terror threats” since the September 11, 2001, incidents in New York and near Washington DC, increasing the possibility that even people who lack the ability or intent to engage in terror acts may be targeted and arrested for “idle talk or a delusional fantasy.”
Meanwhile, according to the report, at the Masjid al-Sabireen mosque in Pomona, which Gojali, Deleon and Santana attended, members expressed shock about the allegations against the young men.
"They are some wonderful youngsters," said Aaron Goulding. "If they are guilty of anything it's just of being youth and naive. Neither one of them have the ability, nor the money to do what they claim they were willing to do."
The FBI use of phrases such as conversion to “radical Islam” and “violent Jihad” in the case against the four suspects has further raised concerns among the local Muslim community, which regard such references in line with the agency’s efforts to spread Islamophobia.