Broke no Singapore laws, defendant testifies in Maryland case

[TamilNet, Sunday, 17 October 2010, 12:11 GMT]
While being cross examined by US Prosecutor, the Singaporean being tried in Baltimore Federal Court for material support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), Balraj Naidu, said that Liberation Tigers were engaged in a "civil war" with Sri Lanka Government, LTTE was not listed as a terrorist organization in Singapore, and that he was arrested but later released when Singapore court dismissed all arms procurement charges. The US Government produced more than 100 e-mails to establish Naidu was part of the conspiracy, and Naidu admitted that he participated in the early part of the group's attempt to procure arms, but denied that he had knowledge that LTTE was listed in the US list of FTOs.

U.S. Prosecutors used Haniffa Bin Osman, who plead guilty to charges of arms procurement for the LTTE and served his prison term of 37 months, as a key witness against Naidu. The prosecutors told the court that the US Government paid Mr Osman $1000 to remain in the U.S. after his prison term to appear as a witness against Naidu, and that Osman was working to earn a living while waiting for Naidu's trial.

U.S. Prosecutors also flew another Singaporean, Eric Pala, from Singapore to provide evidence against Naidu. Mr Pala told the court that the US Government provided immunity from prosecuting him for giving evidence against Naidu.

U.S. Prosecutors also produced Mr. Wilcox, an arms expert who is currently stationed in Italy, and who supervised the sting operation in Guam on the group, Mr Burgess, investigative analyst posted in US embassy in Singapore who analyzed Osman's and Naidu's travels outside Singapore, correlating the travel dates with e-mail trails, and Mr David who served as the FBI-front as an arms dealer in the US.

The US Government also paid for Mrs Naidu to travel from Singapore to provide testimony at the trial. The judge, Catherine C Blake, on request from the defense attorney, Mr Purpura, with the concurrence of the Government prosecutor, allowed Mrs Naidu to witness the full court session which lasted four days, a privilege not given to other witnesses. The Judge agreed with the defense attorney that granting this privilege would allow Mrs Naidu to witness the legal process in action in the U.S. and be convinced that the U.S. proceedings gave her husband full and proper "due process" rights.

After the U.S. Government rested its case, the Judge considered Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the motion for a Judgement of Acquittal. Here, the Court must enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. During this session Judge Blake dismissed Count VI which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

Judge Blake rejected US Prosecutor's argument that the testing of weapons by the co-conspirators amounted to "furtherence of crime of violence," and responded that "procurment of weapons" was the crime associated with the conspiracy, and therefore, the 18 USC 924C charge did not attach to the defendant.

Note that Prosecutors invariably add charges that have dubious legal validity to increase potential prison terms so that the defendant can be persuaded to accept a guilty plea.

Closing statements by both attorneys and the Judge, Catherine C. Blake's jury instructions are to be given on Monday before the Jury is allowed to deliberate to determine if the defendant was culpable of Count II.

If the jury returns a guilty verdict, the Judge will schedule a sentencing date.

With only Count II going to the Jury there is no mandatory minimum sentence, and the Judge has full discretion in setting the prison term if the jury finds the defendant guilty.


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