Accused Kennedy Airport plotter Abdul Kadir testified Tuesday that a bare-chested, gun-toting self-portrait stored on a flash drive he was taking to Iran at the time of his arrest was actually a fun photo taken while playing with toy guns with his kids at Christmastime.
Kadir, a former Guyanese politician taking the stand on his own behalf in a dramatic bid to win his freedom, also claimed he strung along the other plotters in hopes of raising money for a mosque after they told him of their plan, but never joined the 2007 scheme.
"No, sir!" Kadir, 58, declared in a loud, booming voice in a Brooklyn federal courtroom when his lawyer asked him if he ever agreed to blow up fuel tanks and a pipeline at Kennedy.
Russell DeFreitas, 67, a former cargo worker at the airport, and Kadir, a former member of Parliament and mayor of Linden in Guyana, both face life in prison on multiple conspiracy charges. A third man, Abdel Nur, has pleaded guilty and a fourth defendant, Kareem Ibrahim, is not on trial due to a medical condition.
DeFreitas conducted video surveillance at Kennedy and is captured on dozens of tapes made by FBI mole Steven Francis, a Muslim and former drug dealer who posed as a plotter for a year. The evidence against Kadir is less voluminous and to some extent more circumstantial, and in Tuesday's testimony he attempted to explain it away.
A goateed engineer wearing a salmon-colored shirt and testifying in formal English with a Caribbean lilt, Kadir presented himself as an educated, successful man and devout leader of Guyana's small Shia Muslim community, who opposes violence - a view echoed by his daughter Baiynah, who also testified.
"I do not subscribe to fighting, because I have no need to fight," he said.
Kadir said he looked to Iran for religious guidance, and visited for religious and political celebrations. Prosecutors say the pictures of him and three of his children in militant poses that he was carrying to Iran in June, 2007, were designed to help sell the Kennedy plot. But Kadir said a bare chest would have offended strict Islamic sensibilities in Iran.
"Me being without a shirt does not gel," he said.
Instead, he insisted the pictures were holiday jokes spurred by his children playing with plastic guns. "They looked so real!" he said, testifying that only one pistol of the five guns in his photo was real. ". . . We just decided to pose to look mean."
The first meeting at which DeFreitas, Francis and other plotters presented the Kennedy idea to Kadir, at his home in Guyana in February 2007, was not taped by the government informant.
Kadir testified he had no interest in the plot, but promised to check with "associates" because he wanted DeFreitas and Francis to help him with U.S. fundraising for a mosque in his hometown, and other business opportunities. "I did not want to cut off the possibility of a venture with them," he testified.
Kadir's testimony continues Wednesday.