The trial of a student extradited from the UK to face terrorism charges in New York will hear how a letter written to Osama bin Laden puts him at the centre of an al-Qaeda conspiracy to attack targets in the UK, the US and Denmark, according to prosecutors.
Abid Naseer was arrested in 2009, one of a dozen men accused of plotting an attack on a shopping centre in Manchester. The case made a big impact at the time, but no explosives were found and the men were never charged.
Naseer was extradited to the US in 2013 and denies three terror charges against him.
The trial began yesterday and will include evidence from MI5 surveillance officers who have been given permission to appear in wigs and make-up to hide their identity.
Celia Cohen, for the prosecution, said Naseer was the leader of an al-Qaeda cell in Manchester, which was planning to bomb a shopping centre. At the same time, she said, a team was planning to attack the New York subway and another group was to launch an assault on a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
He was arrested after sending a final coded e-mail to an al-Qaeda commander in which he said his team was ready for the “wedding” around Easter, unaware that he was already being watched by British police and MI5, she said.
The prosecution has been given permission to use documents seized by US Navy Seals when they killed bin Laden at his Pakistan hideaway in 2011.
Miss Cohen said they included a letter from the head of the movement’s Western operations setting out details of the plot. She added: “We will see the chilling reminder in the letter to Osama bin Laden that al-Qaeda is to attack the infidels in their home territory.”
The prosecution evidence will also include details of multiple e-mail accounts – some using women’s names – that he allegedly used to correspond with al-Qaeda handlers.
Naseer, who is from Pakistan is representing himself in court. He said the evidence would find him not guilty. “He has no extremist or jihadist views,” he said, referring to himself in the third person.
He added the e-mails were not coded but discussed his plans to get married. The multiple e-mail addresses, he said, including those using women’s names, were part of his hunt for love.
Naseer avoided being deported from Britain after his arrest when a judge ruled he would not be safe if he was sent home. He was rearrested in 2010. The case continues.