British shoe-bomb suspect testifies at NYC trial
NEW YORK: In a videotaped deposition made public for the first time Thursday, a British man convicted in an aborted shoe-bombing mission admitted meeting with Osama bin Laden after deciding to fight jihad against the West.
US prosecutors and defense attorneys interviewed Saajid Badat just outside London late last month in preparation for the New York trial of Adis Medunjanin, accused in the 2009 plot to attack New York’s subways with suicide bombs.
Badat said that he refused a request to testify in person because he remains under indictment in Boston on charges alleging he conspired with shoe-bomber Richard Reid.
”If I go to the United States, I’ll be arrested,” Badat said on the tape played for a jury on Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn.
British authorities had revealed earlier this week that Badat would have a role in the Medunjanin prosecution, calling him the first person convicted in the United Kingdom on terrorism charges to agree to give evidence at the trial of alleged terrorists.
Badat, 33, pleaded guilty in Britain to plotting with Reid to bring down separate American trans-Atlantic flights using bombs hidden in their shoes.
Unlike Reid, he backed out at the last minute.
”I agreed to take an explosive on an aircraft and explode it,” he said in the video, looking clean-cut and wearing a suit.
He also testified that he had ”direct interaction” with bin Laden ”more than once” after traveling to Afghanistan in 1999.
At the time, he knew the terror network as ”The Sheik’s Group,” with ”sheik” referring to bin Laden.
Medunjanin is accused of traveling to Pakistan with two friends from his Queens high school in 2008 and receiving terror training from al-Qaeda
Prosecutors allege the men, including acknowledged mastermind Najibullah Zazi, agreed to seek martyrdom by dying as suicide bombers in an attack on Manhattan subway lines at rush hour.
Medunjanin, 27, a Bosnian-born naturalized US citizen, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, providing material support to a terrorist organization and other charges.
He has denied he was ever part of an al-Qaeda operation.
Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to the plot in 2010 and were jailed without bail after agreeing to become government witnesses in a bid for leniency.
Both testified against Medunjanin earlier this week.
Badat had no involvement with the men.
Prosecutors instead want to use his testimony to corroborate what Zazi and Ahmedzay have said about al-Qaeda’s leadership and training methods.
The British-born son of Malawi immigrants, Badat was 21 when he traveled to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
While in Afghanistan, he was given an explosive device designed to evade airport security and destroy an aircraft in flight, authorities said.
Badat returned to Britain with the device on Dec 10, 2001.
He ended up stashing the bomb under a bed in his family home in Gloucester, England, and resumed his academic studies.
He later told authorities he backed out because he was hoping ”to introduce calm into his life.”
British intelligence tracked down Badat two years later and arrested after investigators matched cords on Reid’s device to those on Badat’s bomb.
Badat was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
But British authorities announced this week that in 2009 a judge secretly reduced his sentence to 11 years to reward him for his cooperation in terror investigations.
The Brooklyn jury only heard about the first 10 minutes of the videotape, which lasts more than two hours.
The rest will be played when the trial resumes on Monday.
Reid attempted to bring down a plane in December 2001 and is serving a life sentence in a high-security US prison.