Man accused of al-Qaida plot tells US jury he’s no terrorist

NEW YORK (AP) — A Pakistani man who’s acting as his own attorney at a U.S. terror trial told a jury in closing arguments Monday that he was busy chasing women on the Internet at the time of his arrest — not plotting death and destruction at a busy British shopping mall.

“Abid is innocent,” said Abid Naseer, referring to himself in the third person as he had in opening statements. “He is not a terrorist. He is not an al-Qaida operative.”

In her closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zainab Ahmed told the jurors in federal court in Brooklyn that the arrests of Naseer and other members of a terror cell in Manchester, England in 2009 averted mass murder there. The government alleges Naseer had received bomb-making instruction in Pakistan in 2008.

“If the defendant hadn’t been stopped, hundreds of innocent men, women and children wouldn’t be alive today,” Ahmed said.

Naseer, 28, was extradited in 2013 to face charges he conspired to provide material support to al-Qaida. He took the witness stand last week to deny the allegations, insisting emails he wrote in 2009 were full of harmless banter about looking for a potential bride after going to England to take computer science classes.

“He wanted to settle down,” he said on Monday. “Is there anything wrong with that?”

But Ahmed accused Naseer of lying on the witness stand by claiming the women he wrote about were real. She said the women’s names actually were code for homemade bomb ingredients: Nadia stood for ammonium nitrate and Huma for hydrogen peroxide. When the defendant wrote to his al-Qaida handler, “I wish you could be here for the party,” he was talking about the attack, she added.

The prosecutor dismissed Naseer’s testimony portraying himself as a middle-class Muslim with no extremist leanings as “blather,” adding, “This man wanted to drive a car bomb into a crowded shopping center and watch people die.”

Prosecutors have accused Naseer of communicating with an al-Qaida operative who also was directing simultaneous plots targeting New York City subways and a newspaper in Copenhagen. Three men, including government cooperator Najibullah Zazi, were arrested in the subway plot.

The jury was expected to begin deliberations on Tuesday. If convicted, Naseer faces life in prison.

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