NEW YORK – A jury convicted a Lebanese-born Swede on Tuesday of plotting to help al-Qaida recruit by trying to set up a weapons-training post in Oregon and distributing terrorist training manuals over the Internet.
The verdict against Oussama Kassir capped a three-week trial that featured the testimony of a U.S.-born Muslim convert who said he tried to create the training camp on 360 acres in Bly, Ore., in 1999.
It was one of two victories Tuesday for U.S. terrorism prosecutors. A federal jury in Miami convicted five men of plotting to join forces with al-Qaida to topple Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices. A sixth man was acquitted in the case's third trial.
Prosecutors in the Kassir case portrayed him as a follower of militant clerics who wanted to take advantage of more relaxed gun laws to arrange training in the United States for European recruits to Islamic militancy. The government said Kassir distributed manuals over the Internet that taught militants how to make bombs, poison people and slit throats.
Defense lawyers countered that Kassir never conspired with anyone to train recruits and did not provide anything on Web sites that was not available on many other sites or at the local library.
The jury deliberated less than a day before returning a guilty verdict on all 12 charges.
As the verdict was read, the bearded Kassir sighed and at one point lowered his head in one hand before he was led away by U.S. marshals.
U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan set sentencing for Sept. 2.
The trial featured testimony by James Ujaama, a Denver-born man who said he wanted to create a training camp in Oregon where Muslims could prepare to go to Afghanistan and fight the Taliban's enemies.
He said he visited the property three times, the third time providing a tour to Kassir, who became angry that there were not young men waiting to be trained and more weapons. Ujaama said the training camp was never fully organized and he never returned to the property.
Ujaama pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges that he provided material support to terrorists by trying to set up the training camp and by loading computer programs onto Taliban computers during a trip to Afghanistan in 1999. He faces up to 30 years in prison at sentencing.
Ujaama said the terrain, with small trees and rocks and widely varying temperatures, was similar to Afghanistan.
During closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Bruce told the jury that Kassir spent several months in the United States in early 2000 before returning to Europe, where he spent the next five years encouraging militant behavior with his postings on multiple Islamic web sites.
He said Kassir "convinced people how to become terrorists and then taught them how to carry out that deadly mission more effectively."
Bruce added: "It cannot go unpunished that al-Qaida can recruit on U.S. soil."