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How lawyers plan to defend five Americans held in Pakistan terrorist plot

Lawyers defending five Americans charged with hatching a Pakistan terrorist plot say that police planted the evidence. The five men, they say, were in Pakistan to attend a wedding.

By Saeed ShahMcClatchy Newspapers / April 12, 2010

Detained American Muslims (two in center, two others at right, facing camera) were surrounded by Pakistani police officers as they left an antiterrorist court after their court appearance in Sargodha, Pakistan, March 2.

Anjum Naveed/AP

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Sargodha, Pakistan

The five Americans from the Washington, D.C., suburbs, who are on trial in Pakistan on terror charges, are the victims of evidence fabricated by the police, their defense lawyers will argue in detail in court this week.

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McClatchy was briefed on the arguments and evidence to be presented in court, which the defense hopes will expose serious discrepancies in the prosecution's case.

The case has heightened fears over the radicalization of Muslim Americans and put a spotlight on how extremists from around the world are drawn to Pakistan, America's critical ally in South Asia.

In a blaze of publicity, the five young American men, all Muslims, were arrested in December in the central town of Sargodha, Pakistan, and since charged with planning terrorist acts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States. While the men admit they wanted to go to Afghanistan, they say for "community work," it is the evidence that they planned any terrorist activity in Pakistan or the US that is to be called into dispute.

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Contacts the men allegedly had over e-mail with a Pakistani militant linked to Al Qaeda could not have happened in the way the police claim, the defense will say. The date the authorities discovered the e-mail account, according to the police's own version submitted to court, was several days after police had briefed journalists on the e-mails.

Similarly, maps of target sites and other incriminating evidence were officially found, according to the police report, more than two weeks after the police had already told media about their existence.

Funky police timeline?

The defense also will call into question police claims over the date of the men's arrest, which is several days after their widely reported detention on Dec. 9. According to the police, though the men were taken into custody on Dec. 9, they were allowed to go home each evening after interrogation before being formally arrested on Dec. 14. However, there were no reported sightings of the men after Dec. 9.

Khalid Farooq, the father of one of the men, who was held with them for some three weeks, told McClatchy that all of them were in continuous police custody after Dec. 8.

"I was with the boys, in the same cell," said Mr. Farooq. "There's no question of them being allowed out."