Prosecutors suggested that accused Kennedy Airport terror plotter Abdul Kadir had been an Iranian "operative" and "spy" for more than 20 years during a wide-ranging cross-examination as testimony in the four-week trial concluded Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn.
Kadir, 58, a former Guyanese politician, was arrested on his way to Iran in June 2007, but he took the witness stand Tuesday to testify that he was a peace-loving Shia Muslim traveling to a religious celebration, and had never joined the 2007 Kennedy plot.
One day later, U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry gave prosecutors extraordinary latitude to cross-examine Kadir. She allowed questions about Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 "fatwa" against author Salman Rushdie, terror acts attributed to the Iran-backed group Hezbollah, Kadir's correspondence with an Iranian diplomat accused of a 1996 bombing in Argentina, and his presence in Trinidad two days before an attempted Islamic coup there in 1990.
There was no evidence of Kadir's involvement in any of those events, but prosecutor Marshall Miller also asked him about a series of memos he sent to Iran's ambassador in Venezuela in the early 1980s, shortly after converting to the Shiite branch of Islam dominant in Iran, in which he reported on political and economic conditions in Guyana and sought financial backing.
"Is it fair to say that you're a spy for the Iranian government?" Miller asked.
"No, sir," replied Kadir, who said the reports simply recounted public information available in newspapers.
Kadir, an engineer who served as a mayor and member of parliament in Guyana, and Russell DeFreitas, 67, of Brooklyn, a Guyanese-American cargo worker at Kennedy, are charged with multiple conspiracies in the alleged plot to attack jet-fuel tanks and pipelines at the airport.
Prosecutors say DeFreitas recruited Kadir into the plot in February 2007, after an earlier group fell apart, but Kadir says he never joined - insisting, variously, that he strung the plotters along so they would help him raise money in the United States for a mosque, and that he wanted to "rehabilitate" them.
Federal officials have long talked about possible Iranian support for the plot, but prosecutors have offered no direct evidence of it at trial, other than the suggestions that Kadir's links to Iran point in that direction.
Both sides rested their cases Wednesday after Kadir's testimony. The jury is to return on Monday for closing arguments and deliberations.