Miami terrorism case to get third trial
MIAMI – U.S. federal prosecutors on Wednesday said they will try for a third time to convict six men accused of seeking help from al Qaeda to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago as part of a holy war.
Prosecutors announced the decision at a hearing in the same U.S. District Court in Miami where a mistrial in the second trial involving the men was declared last week. Jurors could not agree on a verdict after 13 days of deliberations.
The first trial in the so-called “Liberty City Seven” case also ended in a mistrial last December, when jurors failed to reach a verdict for six defendants. A seventh won acquittal.
When the seven were arrested in June 2006, authorities said they had scored a major blow against terrorism and a breakthrough in efforts to speedily dismantle home-grown “sleeper cells.”
The suspects, who operated out of a warehouse in Miami’s poor Liberty City neighborhood, were accused of conspiring to bomb America’s tallest building, the Sears Tower, the FBI’s Miami office and other federal buildings.
They were filmed swearing an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda group. Their lawyers argued they were only playing along, hoping to get money out of a man claiming to have ties to al Qaeda who was actually an FBI informant.
Prosecutors offered no comment on last week’s mistrial. Lawyers for the defendants, who face four terrorism-related conspiracy charges that carry a combined maximum of 70 years in prison, said they could not comment because of a gag order imposed by U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard.
It was not immediately clear when the third trial would get under way. Lenard set a status conference for next Wednesday.