By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
August 20, 2014
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The jury trial for the case of the Philippine national accused of aspiring to join al Qaeda has now entered its second week.
Authorities claim Ralph DeLeon, a 25-year-old permanent resident who moved from the Philippines to the U.S. at age 13, was on his way to the Middle East to join al Qaeda and carry out terror acts against Americans when he was arrested in November of 2012.
On Tuesday, prosecutors unveiled pictures depicting terrorism that they claim to have found on computers seized from DeLeon’s home.
DeLeon and Soheil Omar Kabir face five counts – which include attempting to join a terror group and conspiring to harm and kill Americans. DeLeon, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a 15-year prison sentence.
Kabir is accused of recruiting him to join al Qaeda along with Miguel Santana and Arifeen David Gojali as far back as 2010.
Santana and Gojali have since pleaded guilty, and are expected to testify against DeLeon and Kabir during the trial.
DeLeon, according previous interviews with his family, was raised Catholic and converted to Islam around 2010.
As the trial started, the credibility of a confidential informant has come into question.
Some civil rights groups believe this confidential informant could have entrapped the defendants, especially as he reportedly paid for many of the defendants’ activities ranging from vacations to dinners and outings.
Records describe the informant as a non-U.S. citizen who had deportable drug related convictions.
The informant, who attended the same mosque as DeLeon, was given over a quarter million dollars and has been spared from deportation in exchange for aiding federal agents to DeLeon and his friends’ arrest.
After nearly two years in the making, with hundreds of pages and hours worth of evidence, and a long list of potential witnesses expected to take the stand, the trial is expected to last several weeks.