Muhanad al Farekh was convicted Friday by a Brooklyn federal jury of aiding an attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan in 2009 and joining al-Qaida, following a two-week trial that featured fingerprint evidence the government said linked him to an undetonated truck bomb.
Al Farekh, 31, a U.S. citizen of Jordanian descent who was born in Houston and grew up in Dubai, was accused of going to Pakistan with two college friends from the University of Manitoba in 2007 and joining al-Qaida, where he became a key operative in the terror group’s “external operations” division.
The jury began deliberating on Wednesday but had to restart on Thursday, after U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan removed four jurors who heard comments from Farekh’s father in an elevator and replaced them with three alternates.
Al Farekh was convicted of nine counts including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, explosives charges and providing material support to al-Qaida. He will face a sentence of up to life in prison from Cogan, who scheduled the sentencing for Jan. 11.
Al Farekh, shorn of a long black beard and showing a clean-cut look with well-groomed facial hair and collared shirts at trial, did not react when the verdict was read.
“We’re disappointed in the jury’s verdict and plan to appeal,” defense lawyer Sean Maher said.
Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde in Brooklyn said the verdict brought “an American al-Qaida member” to justice and “established al Farekh’s responsibility for a violent attack on members of our armed forces, his efforts to murder Americans and his commitment to one of the world’s most infamous terrorist organizations.”
The trial included testimony from New York City subway bomb plotter Zarein Ahmedzay, now a cooperating witness. He did not recognize al Farekh, but he identified one of the men with whom al Farekh went to Pakistan as a weapons trainer in the al-Qaida training camp the subway bombers visited in 2008.
Another testimony came from a soldier who was on duty at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan and was knocked back by the force of a blast from a truck bomb.
In the attack, one truck bomb exploded, leaving a crater; no soldiers died. A second truck got stuck, and its bomb never exploded. Government experts said 18 of al Farekh’s fingerprints were on tape wrapping the detonator for the second bomb’s 7,500 pounds of explosives, and also said DNA of a hair matched al Farekh’s.
Defense lawyers challenged the forensic evidence connecting al Farekh to the bomb.