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San Diego Judge Denies New Trial For 4 Somali Men Convicted Of Supporting Terrorism

A San Diego federal judge Thursday rejected a new trial bid by four Somali immigrants convicted of terrorism-related charges earlier this year.

Defense lawyers argued secrecy surrounding NSA surveillance hindered discovery and violated Fourth Amendment rights of defendants, found guilty of aiding terrorist group. Three of the four men are scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

Judge Jeffrey Miller disputed the men’s claims that the controversial National Security Agency surveillance dragnet violated their rights.

The case against the men was initiated after the NSA found a San Diego phone number in 2007 linked to the terrorist group al-Shabab. The number was traced to San Diego cab driver Basaaly Moalin. A jury found Moalin and three other local men guilty in February of sending money to al-Shabab. The men contended that the NSA phone records program trampled on their constitutional rights against illegal searches.

But in a written ruling Judge Miller said, under the Fourth Amendment, the men had no reasonable expectation of privacy evidence in records of calls made. Hanni Fakhoury is a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group. He says the ruling likely will be appealed because the NSA surveillance program puts defendants at a disadvantage.

“The government wants to use this case to justify its program which they’ve done in both the press and before Congress," Fakhoury said. "If that’s the case, they have to at least give the opportunity for the defense attorneys to challenge that evidence, understand how those programs were used in the specific prosecution and have an opportunity to pursue any legal arguments they can make that could potentially impact whether their clients are convicted or not."

Prosecutors in the case declined comment. Three of the four men are scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

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Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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