Oct. 24, 2007 · A pre-trial hearing scheduled to begin Monday in Atlanta, in which prosecutors are expected to air 12 hours of recorded interviews between law enforcement agents and a suspect accused of aiding terrorists, will be open to the public and press after a federal judge denied the suspect’s motion seeking to keep it closed.
On Oct. 12, Chief Magistrate Judge Gerrilyn Brill issued a three-page order flatly denying defendant Syed Haris Ahmed’s request to close the hearing at which Ahmed’s attorneys will be asking the court to declare his prior statements to law enforcement agents inadmissible at trial.
“Defendant’s motion does not come close to giving the Court grounds” to justify closing the hearing, Brill wrote.
Ahmed had argued that because the government planned on playing the recording of his allegedly incriminating statements at the hearing and because of a high level of public interest in the case, his right to a fair trial would be harmed if the proceeding was open to the public.
Relying on U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Brill found that Ahmed had failed to sufficiently articulate how a fair trial was impossible under the circumstances. Instead, Brill suggested that the trial judge would be able “to minimize any possible negative effect of pre-trial publicity” through the jury selection process.
Ahmed was indicted by a federal grand jury and arrested on March 23, 2006, on four counts related to providing support to terrorists or foreign terrorist organizations. He pleaded not guilty.
This is not the first secrecy issue in this case. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Associated Press, CNN and WSB-TV in Atlanta argued in previous court pleadings against closing elements of the case involving the Classified Information Procedures Act.
(USA v. Ahmed) — Loren Cochran