Trinidadian Man Was Member of Plot to Blow Up JFK Airport, Jury Is Told

Kareem Ibrahim, a citizen of Trinidad, participated in a foiled plot to blow up New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, federal prosecutors told jurors at the close of the second trial in the case.

Ibrahim, 65, in May 2007 offered to find people who might fund the scheme, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zainab Ahmad told jurors today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

“Mr. Ibrahim embraced that plan,” Ahmad said in her summation today. “He embraced it with open arms.”

The attacks, hatched by a former cargo worker at the airport, Russell Defreitas, were designed to blow up fuel lines and tanks and, ultimately, “the whole of Kennedy,” Defreitas said in a recorded conversation. The plot surrounding the Queens, New York, airport was foiled in its planning stages with the aid of informant Steven Francis, who infiltrated the group, according to the government.

Three men have already been sentenced in the case. Defreitas, 67, a U.S. citizen and native of Guyana, and Abdul Kadir, 59, a former member of Guyana’s parliament, were sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted them in August. Abdel Nur, 61, a Guyanese citizen who pleaded guilty on the eve of last year’s trial, was sentenced to 15 years. Francis testified at both trials.

In his closing argument, Ibrahim’s lawyer Michael Hueston told the jurors that his client never intended to join the plot and lied to Defreitas and Francis when he said he would.

“Lying is a tactic,” Hueston said. “Mr. Ibrahim was trying to escape from these individuals.”

Medical Condition

Ibrahim, who was slated to be tried last year with the others, was granted a separate proceeding due to a medical condition. The trial, presided over by U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry, began with opening statements May 10. The jury is scheduled to begin its deliberations tomorrow.

Ibrahim advised the plotters not to seek help from an extremist group in Trinidad and instead offered to find other backers in Iran, according to the June 2007 criminal complaint under which he was arrested.

“It was his idea to present the plan to Iran, and he had the connections to get it done,” Ahmad said of Ibrahim in her closing statement today.

The plot members had sought support from Abu Bakr, leader of the group Jamaat Al Muslimeen, or JAM, which had staged a 1990 coup attempt in Trinidad that resulted in two dozen deaths, Ahmad told jurors.

Terrorist Threats

The JFK plotters hoped to get help either from JAM directly or by JAM introducing them to Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, according to prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. Shukrijumah is wanted in connection with possible terrorist threats against the U.S. and is a member of al-Qaeda, the Muslim terrorist group formerly led by Osama bin Laden, according to court papers.

Ibrahim, Defreitas and Francis met with Nur at a JAM compound in Trinidad in May 2007, according to the complaint. Nur told them he had met with a JAM leader and presented the plot to attack New York’s biggest airport.

The next day, Ibrahim advised against approaching JAM and instead said he would “present the plan to contacts overseas who may be interested in purchasing or funding it,” according to the complaint.

Present the Plan

During that conversation Defreitas compared the scheme to the Sept. 11 attacks, and said, “Even the Twin Towers can’t touch it,” according to the complaint. “This can destroy the economy of America for some time if it falls into the right hands.”

Four days later, Ibrahim told Defreitas he was sending “an associate” to travel “overseas” to present the plan, according to the complaint. The men were arrested shortly after that.

Hueston, the defense attorney, said today that no evidence, including recorded conversations, showed that Ibrahim tapped Kadir to fly to Iran to gain support for the plan, as the government contends. Kadir was arrested on a plane en route to Iran.

“Why doesn’t he mention it?” Hueston said of Ibrahim. “Because it never happened.”

“The defendant in this case was caught red-handed, captured on tape committing the very crimes with which he is charged,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Miller told jurors in his closing argument.

The case is U.S. v. Defreitas, 07-cr-00543, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

To contact the reporter on this story: Thom Weidlich in Brooklyn, New York, federal court at tweidlich@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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