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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.

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His son, Umer Farooq, age 24, is on trial with Waqar Hussain Khan, 22, Ramy Zamzam, 22, Ahmed Minni, 20, and Aman Hassan Yemer, just 18. All of them grew up in Alexandria, Va., where they were a tight-knit, religious, group of friends.

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The Farooqs are originally from Sargodha and the men claim they had traveled to the Pakistani town to attend Umer's arranged marriage to a local woman. The men, who allege they were beaten by police and deprived of sleep and food in custody, face life in prison if convicted on the most serious of the charges.

On Dec. 10 and 11, police briefed local and international media, on the record, about a Yahoo e-mail account used to communicate with a Pakistani extremist called Saifullah, a detail that was reported around the world. They also said at the time that maps and jihadi or other extremist literature were found with the men.

However, according to the police report lodged with the antiterrorism court in Sargodha, where the men are being tried, it was on Dec. 17 that the suspects disclosed "their secret email address along with password," allowing the authorities to find the communication with Saifullah.

In the police report, a copy of which was obtained by McClatchy, the police say that they found the extremist literature and maps on Dec. 26.

"By the 9th, the police had made up their mind what they were going to plant on these boys, because they had nothing on them," said defense lawyer Hasan Dastagir Katchela. "There are going to be some massive surprises" in court on Saturday when the trial resumes.

According to Mr. Katchela, the later time given for the arrest is to allow police to create e-mail and other evidence that is dated after Dec. 9 and police have had to change the dates for the discovery of evidence to fit the timing of when they were "cooked up."

Checking the Yahoo account

On Dec. 11, a senior Sargodha police officer, Abbas Majeed Marwat, had described the Yahoo e-mail account to McClatchy in detail, explaining that the men and Saifullah communicated by saving messages only in the drafts folder, to which they both had access, so that no message would actually be sent over the Web.

Speaking over the weekend, Usman Anwar, the district police chief for Sargodha, said the e-mails were genuine and "clearly show their evil intentions." He also denied the allegations of abuse, adding that the men had been "advised by their lawyer to make a hue and cry" to gain public sympathy.

The men are being tried in a court inside the Sargodha jail, which is closed to their families and the media. The first day of the hearing was held at the end of last month.

US officials haven't publicly raised any concerns over whether the men are receiving a fair trial. FBI officials were reportedly present for at least part of the men's initial interrogation. A spokesperson for the US embassy, Ariel Howard, declined to comment on the issue. However, she said that allegations of mistreatment were investigated, without elaborating on the outcome.