He is getting the protection you would expect for an accused terrorist mastermind. Khalid Aldawsari, the former Texas Tech and South Plains student was whisked in and out of Amarillo’s Federal Court with none of the fanfare he received when he was first charged in February 2011. The Saudi Arabian native is on trial for trying to cobble together a weapon of mass destruction. The defense and prosecution selected a jury in just a couple of hours, which consists of eight men and six women all from Amarillo and surrounding communities.
Aldawsari’s attorney asked potential jurors if they would have any issue with Aldawsari’s Muslim faith or Saudi citizenship. Dan Cogdell also asked if jurors would worry about sitting next to a Saudi citizen on an airplane. A few said yes.
In court documents, prosecutors accused Aldawsari of purchasing ingredients to construct an explosive device, and researching potential U.S. targets. Those targets included hydroelectric dams and the Dallas home of former president George W. Bush. Investigators said the student’s blog postings revealed extremist views.
“It will be up to the jury to take all of those facts and come to a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not he did commit this act,” Lubbock attorney Curtis Parrish said. “It has to be unanimous, or they could decide he did not and he would be free to go.”
Aldawsari was scheduled to go on trial April 30th in Lubbock, but earlier in April, Federal judge Sam Cummings recused himself from the case with no reason cited in court documents. Louisiana Federal judge Donald Walter was then assigned to the high-profile case and moved the trial to Amarillo.
“We will probably never know why Judge Walter decided to move the case up to Amarillo,” Parrish said. “We will probably never know the answer to why Judge Cummings recused himself to bring the visiting judge in to hear this case. Amarillo is still within the northern district of Texas. It really did not leave the district; they are just choosing a jury out of Amarillo to decide this case.”
Opening arguments are set for Friday morning. Aldawsari is pleading not guilty. His attorney said he is planning an insanity defense, and if convicted, Aldawsari faces up to life in prison.
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This report contains material provided by the Associated Press.