Boston Marathon bomber appeals conviction, death sentence

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Thursday asked an appellate court to overturn his conviction and death penalty sentence for helping carry out the 2013 attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

Lawyers for Tsarnaev, 25, argued in a brief filed with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston that a lower-court judge’s refusal to move the case to another city not traumatized by the bombings deprived him of a fair trial.

The attorneys acknowledged that their client, then 19, carried out the attack along with his now-deceased 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

But they argued that wall-to-wall media coverage of the bombings meant that nearly the entire jury pool was exposed to news about the attacks, which included “heart-wrenching stories about the homicide victims, the wounded and their families.”

“The pre-trial publicity was damning: the more a prospective juror had seen, the more likely she was to believe that Tsarnaev was guilty and deserved the death penalty,” Tsarnaev’s lawyers wrote in a 500-page brief.

They said U.S. District Judge George O’Toole also ignored evidence that two jurors had commented on the case on social media before being picked and prevented the defence from telling jurors about Tsarnaev’s brother’s ties to a 2011 triple murder.

That evidence, they said, would have supported their sentencing-related argument that Tsarnaev was a junior partner in a scheme run by his older brother, “an angry and violent man” who had embraced radical Islam.

The appeal came after a federal jury in 2015 found Tsarnaev guilty of placing a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the world-renowned race on April 15, 2013, as well as fatally shooting a policeman three days later.

The same jury later found that Tsarnaev deserved execution for six of the 17 capital charges of which he was found guilty, which were related to the bomb he personally placed at the marathon’s finish line.

That bomb killed 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest fatality, and 23-year-old Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu. The bombing was one of the highest-profile attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

Tsarnaev’s brother died after a gunfight with police four days after the bombing, which ended when Tsarnaev ran him over with a stolen car.

The manhunt for Tsarnaev ended when he was found hiding in a boat dry-docked in Watertown, Massachusetts.

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Categories: Boston Marathon Bombing, death penalty, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, News, Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Belgian judge orders repatriation of six children of Islamic State militants

A Belgian judge has ordered the government to repatriate six children of Islamic State (IS) militants and their mothers who have been detained in a camp in Kurdish-controlled Syria, the national news agency Belga said on Wednesday.

Tatiana Wielandt, 26, and Bouchra Abouallal, 25, both Belgian citizens, and their children have been held in the Al-Hol camp in since the defeat of IS in nearly all territory it once held in Syria and Iraq.

Belga quoted the court ruling as ordering the Brussels government to take all necessary and possible measures to ensure the six children and their mothers can return to Belgium.

It must do so within 40 days after being notified of the decision or pay a daily penalty of 5,000 euros for each child, up to a maximum 1 million euros, newspaper De Tijd said. The Belgian government can appeal the ruling.

No comment was available from the court on Wednesday due to a public holiday. A lawyer for the two women was not immediately available for comment.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry said it would “analyse the situation together” with the justice and interior ministries.

Hundreds of European citizens, many of them babies, are being kept by U.S.-backed Kurdish militias in three camps since IS was ousted last year from almost all the large swathes of territory it seized in 2014-15, according to Kurdish sources.

European nations have been reluctant to take them back, regarding children of jihadists both as victims and threats – difficult to reintegrate into schools and homes.

European diplomats say they cannot act in a region where Kurdish control is not internationally recognised. Moreover, there is little popular sympathy for militants’ families after a spate of deadly IS attacks across western Europe.

The Kurd say it is not their job to prosecute or hold them indefinitely, leaving the women and children in legal limbo.

However, mounting concern over the apparent abandonment of hundreds of children with a claim to EU citizenship – most of them under six – is pushing governments to quietly explore how to tackle the complexities of bringing them back.

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Categories: Islamic State, Kurdish, Militants, News, repatriation, Tatiana Wielandt

Friend of PM Plot Terrorist Found Guilty of Making His Travel Plans

A friend of an Islamic State terrorist who plotted to assassinate the Prime Minister has been found guilty of preparing to join terrorists abroad.

Mohammed Aqib Imran, 22, made arrangements to travel for jihad, around the time Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman, 21, was set on a suicide attack on the heart of Government.

Rahman, from Finchley, north London, helped his like-minded friend by recording an IS sponsorship video for him, the Old Bailey heard.

The pair were snared by a network of online role-players from the Met Police, MI5 and the FBI.

Rahman’s plans to kill Theresa May were scuppered when undercover officers handed him a jacket and rucksack packed with fake explosives.

Following a trial in July, Rahman was convicted of preparing acts of terrorism and Imran was found guilty of possessing a terrorist handbook.

Rahman also pleaded guilty during his trial to assisting Imran in the preparation of terrorist acts by recording a sponsorship video.

Following a retrial, former student Imran was further found guilty of preparing acts of terrorism abroad on or before November 28 2017.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC told jurors: “At the heart of this case is a developing radicalisation in the minds of two men who came to know each other online and afterwards met and began to collaborate.

“Both thought about travelling abroad to further their cause, going to a conflict zone such as Syria to lend support to violence. Each also contemplated carrying out terrorist acts of violence here in the UK.

“Mohammed Imran – he elected to travel and set about assembling money, acquiring a fake passport, engaging in research and otherwise equipping himself with the information and means to travel aboard for violence for terrorist purposes

“In the case of the other, Naa’imur Rahman, his conclusion was that lethal violence here, directed at the very heart of the UK Government, was the only effective way to pursue his intentions.

“Before his arrest prevented it, he was, he believed, just days away from his objective, which was no less than a suicide attack by blade and explosion, on Downing Street and, if he could, upon Prime Minister Theresa May herself.”

The court heard how Imran’s preferred destination was Libya or possibly Jordan with a view to onward travel to Syria.

He had saved money to pay for a fake passport and researched travel options, the court heard.

He downloaded the manual How to Survive in the West – a Mujahid’s Guide 2015 with a view to joining IS, the jury was told.

Imran, from Sparkhill in Birmingham, denied the charge against him, claiming he only wanted to get married to a woman in Denmark he had met online.

The jury deliberated for just under 18 hours to reject his explanation and find him guilty of preparing to engage in acts of terrorism.

In August, Rahman, who is originally from Birmingham, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 30 years.

Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, the recorder of London, requested a report from the probation service before sentencing on any potential “future risk” from Imran, as it was “a really important question, the safety of the public”.

Imran is due to be sentenced on January 25.

Following the verdict, Jenny Hopkins, head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division in the CPS, said: “Mohammad Imran was desperate to join Daesh rather than remain in the UK.

“He was ready to give up everything to kill in the name of a warped world view.”


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Categories: Islamic State, Mohammed Aqib Imran, Naa'imur Zakariyah Rahman, News

Iraqi Christians celebrate Christmas one year after Islamic State defeat

Iraqi Christians celebrated Christmas on Tuesday amid improved security, more than a year after the country declared victory over Islamic State militants.

In northeast Mosul, people attended a mass on Monday (December 24) at the Grand Immaculate Church, surrounded by blackened walls still tagged with Islamic State graffiti. Dozens of worshippers prayed and received communion, and then gathered around the traditional bonfire in the church’s courtyard.

The militants had ravaged Christian areas, looting and burning down homes and churches, stripping them of all valuable artefacts and smashing relics.

Faced with a choice to convert, pay a tax or die, many Christians in the Nineveh Plains, chose to flee. Most sought refuge in nearby towns and cities, but many sought permanent asylum abroad.

In Baghdad, at the St. George Chaldean Church, Christians turned out in force to attend a mass on Tuesday (December 25).

Key Shiite and Sunni clerics were also present at the mass.

It was from a Mosul mosque that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” in 2014, spanning northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

The militants seized vast swaths of territory in north and west of Iraq in June 2014. But U.S-backed Iraqi forces recaptured the areas and declared final victory against ISIS in 2017.

Iraq’s Christian population has shrunk from 1.5 million to about 400,000 since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

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Categories: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Christmas, Iraqi Christians, Islamic State, News

Britain commissions review of Christian persecution worldwide

Britain has commissioned an independent review into the persecution of Christians to find practical steps to support followers of a religion that it said has been subject to a dramatic rise in violence worldwide.

Some 215 million Christians worldwide faced persecution for their faith last year, it said, with Christian women and children particularly vulnerable and often subject to sexual violence as a result of their beliefs.

Last year, on average, 250 Christians were killed very month because of their faith, it said.

“So often the persecution of Christians is a telling early warning sign of the persecution of every minority,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Today I have asked the Bishop of Truro to look at how the British government can better respond to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.

“We can and must do more.”

The review will map Christian persecution in key countries across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, analyse British support and recommend a comprehensive policy response, the government said.

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Categories: Bishop of Truro, Britain, Christian Persecution, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, News

Concerned Woman Calls Police Fearing Carol Singers ‘from Leeds’

A concerned woman fearing “up to no good” carol singers was one of several unusual phone calls received by a police force during “Mad Friday”.

North Yorkshire Police shared details of the incident as part of a “tweetathon” documenting every call received between noon on Friday and 6am on Saturday, a period known to be one of the busiest of the year for forces across the country.

In one post, sent at 8.36pm on Friday, the force said they had been contacted by a woman in Harrogate about the carol singers, who are believed to have been from nearby Leeds.

The tweet said: “Caller from #Harrogate who is aware of Christmas carol singers in the area who she believes are from Leeds.

“Caller believes they are up to no good as they are not local to area – observations passed to local officers.”

The post triggered a series of comical responses from social media users, including one who suggested that the force should “build a wall and make Leeds pay for it”.

Another said that the caller might have been baffled by hearing the hymn Silent Night being sung “in a Leeds accent”.

One user joked that he had seen the singers in the famous Betty’s tea room earlier in the day, saying they had “asked for their crusts to be left on, and didn’t leave a tip”.

The force received hundreds of calls during the “tweetathon”, including one about a milkshake being thrown in a takeaway and another complaining about their neighbours’ “loud sex”.

The last Friday before Christmas, nicknamed “Mad Friday” and “Black Eye Friday”, is regarded as a hectic time for emergency services as it is a popular night to host festive parties.

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Categories: Carol Singers, Christmas, Leeds, News, Police

Strasbourg Attacker Had Pledged Allegiance to the Islamic State Group

The alleged gunman who shot and killed five people in a Christmas market attack this month in Strasbourg had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, an official says.

The judicial official said investigators have found a video stored on a USB stick in which Cherif Chekatt had claimed allegiance to the extremist group.

The video was discovered at Chekatt’s home.

Chekatt, 29, died in a shootout with police two days after his December 11 attack at Strasbourg’s popular Christmas market.

Shortly after his death, the Islamic State group’s Amaq news agency claimed he was a “soldier” of the group.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had rejected the claim as “totally opportunistic”.

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Categories: Cherif Chekatt, France, Islamic State, News, Strasbourg

Neo-Nazi sticker found near mosque removed by cyclist in Regent’s Park

A cyclist removed a sticker on a lamppost which promoted the neo-Nazi group the British Movement, which had appeared a ‘short walk’ from Regent’s Park mosque in London.

The incident occurred on December 19.

Speaking to Tell MAMA, the cyclist, who wishes to remain anonymous, described how, when cycling laps around Regent’s Park, had chanced upon the sticker, which, in their estimation, was a ‘5 to 10-minute walk’ from the mosque.

Tell MAMA has documented similar examples of where stickers, promoting neo-Nazi and far-right groups, were found nationwide.

In 2017, there were 11 verified reports of hate speech, and 28 reports of anti-Muslim literature reported to Tell MAMA.

The Metropolitan Police have been made aware of the incident.

You can get advice through our confidential and free helpline on 0800 456 1226. Or through our free iOS or Android apps. Report through our online form. Or contact us via WhatsApp on 0734 184 6086.


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Categories: hate crime, Neo-Nazi, News, sticker

Young Right Wing Extremist Can Be Identified

A 17-year-old right-wing extremist can be named after he pleaded guilty to terror offences.

Oskar Dunn-Koczorowski, from west London, admitted two charges of encouraging terrorism at the Old Bailey on Thursday.

The charges relate to publishing messages on social network Gab in August and September.

His co-defendant, Polish national Michael Szewczuk, 18, from Bramley, in Leeds, is yet to enter pleas to five counts of encouraging terrorism and three counts of disseminating terrorist publications.

The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, set a provisional trial date of May 13 in Manchester, with a plea hearing on April 15.

Their case will next be heard on February 25 at the Old Bailey.

Both were released on conditional bail.

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Categories: Michael Szewczuk, News, Old Bailey, Oskar Dunn-Koczorowski, Right wing extremist

Convicted Bomb-Maker Had Pictures of Muslims on Dartboard & Images of Barack Obama

A bomb-maker who had a dartboard featuring images of Barack Obama, the Duchess of Cambridge and Cheryl Tweedy has been jailed for five years.

Matthew Glynn, 37, had an arsenal of weapons including Samurai swords, axes and knives at his home in Horfield, Bristol. He kept a viable improvised explosive device (IED) – which posed a threat to life – underneath his bed. More than 6kg of explosive powders, as well as other chemical used for bomb making, were stashed in his property.

Glynn also bought a Wolverine-style weapon with four sharp blades, described as “horrific” by police.

Bristol Crown Court heard a colleague tipped off police after visiting Glynn at his home in July.

Rachel Drake, prosecuting, said: “He went straight to the defendant’s bedroom and saw a vast array of weapons. “He also saw a dartboard with pictures of Muslim people upon it and Mr Glynn said he had a dart board of ‘people I hate’.

“Mr Glynn gave a tour of his weapons, describing their origin and use.

“The following day at work, Mr Glynn joked that he had had him sat on a bomb when he had been sat on the bed.”

The colleague, James Grogan, did not believe Glynn at first but later reported the claim to police. Officers attended at Howdens Joinery, where Glynn worked, on July 23 and he insisted it had been a joke. But when police asked to check his home, Glynn said he was worried about his collection of swords and axes.

He then asked officers: “If I do have something, will it be classed as a terror incident?”

Mr Grogan described Glynn as being an anxious man who demonstrated “racist and homophobic views”.

The area around Glynn’s home was evacuated while explosives experts examined what was inside. Glynn’s bed was x-rayed and a bomb, containing explosives, ball bearings and nails, was discovered. Ms Drake said experts concluded the device “would have posed a threat to life” if it had been detonated.

There were pots containing more than 6kg of explosives at Glynn’s home, as well as other handmade devices. One was a tennis ball filled with explosive powder, which could have been used as a grenade.

Glynn also possessed books, leaflets and notes detailing how to make bombs and throw knives, the court heard. “It was an extremely large arsenal,” Ms Drake said.

“In interview, he said it was his intention at some point to go to an open space to ignite them to see what damage they could do.” She said he did not have an explanation for the dartboard of people he hated found at his home and denied he still held views expressed on Facebook.

“The Facebook pages demonstrate an element of Islamophobia and general racial hated,” Ms Drake told the court.

One posts suggested school trips to mosques should be banned, while another called for the death penalty for serial killers, paedophiles and terrorists.

Ramin Pakrooh, representing Glynn, questioned why his client’s Facebook postings had been raised in court.

“There’s a number of views expressed within his Facebook page such as views on immigration,” Mr Pakrooh said.

“That is absolutely a matter for him and is absolutely not for this court to censure these views unless these views have resulted in him breaking the law.”

Mr Pakrooh said Glynn “objected” to his dartboard being referred to as a “Muslim board” by prosecutors.

The board featured images of Barack Obama, Justin Bieber, Cheryl Tweedy, the Duchess of Cambridge and a Somali boy.

“It was a board for people he hated,” Mr Pakrooh said. “I don’t think any of the images on that board have escaped having darts thrown at them.”

Glynn had been collecting weapons for about 20 years and treated them as a “hobby”, his barrister said. The court heard Glynn had no previous convictions. He admitted five charges under the Explosive Substances Act 1883 at a hearing in October.

Sentencing Glynn to five years in prison, Judge Peter Blair QC, the Recorder of Bristol, said the defendant had expressed “hated of others”. He described his Facebook postings as “haphazard and irregular”.

“The really concerning elements of this case were the two bombs which were seized,” the judge said.

“One of them had ball bearings and nails in it and the other had ball bearings on it.”

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Categories: Bomb Maker, Bristol, IED, Matthew Glynne, News, Terror Incident, terrorism