FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
TWO DEFENDANTS IN ‘PORTLAND CELL’ CASE PLEAD GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY TO CONTRIBUTE SERVICES TO THE TALIBAN, FEDERAL WEAPONS CHARGES
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Michael W. Mosman of the District of Oregon announced today that Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal and Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, two defendants in the so-called “Portland cell” case, have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to provide services to the Taliban, and conspiracy to possess and discharge firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence.
As part of their guilty pleas, entered this morning at U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, defendants Muhammad Bilal and Ahmed Bilal have agreed to accept responsibility for their criminal conduct and cooperate completely and truthfully with the government’s criminal and terrorism investigations, including at grand juries, hearings, trials and military commissions.
The remaining charges against both defendants will be dismissed at the time of sentencing, which will be scheduled after the trial of the remaining defendants in January 2004. Muhammad Bilal faces a probable sentence of 8-14 years at his sentencing. Ahmed Bilal faces a probable sentence of 10-14 years at sentencing.
In the plea agreements, Ahmed and Muhammad Bilal both admit that during the summer of 2001, they and others conducted martial arts training and firearms practice in order to prepare themselves to fight a violent jihad in Afghanistan or some other location at a point in the future. The defendants both admit going with other individuals to rural locations in Oregon to practice military-style shooting. The defendants state that following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by al Qaeda, they both went shooting at a gravel pit in Washougal, Washington, along with co-defendant Patrice Lumumba Ford, who provided a new shotgun for use in training. Ahmed Bilal also admits to shooting with an automatic weapon at the same gravel pit on a second occasion, along with co-defendants Ford, Jeffrey Battle, Habis al Saoub and others.
After the September 11th attacks, the defendants were asked by co-defendant al Saoub to join a group of individuals who planned to travel from Portland to Afghanistan to assist the Taliban in fighting against the armed forces of the United States of America. Ahmed and Muhammad Bilal admit agreeing to do so, and to meeting on several occasions with other members of the group to discuss their plans and preparations.
Both defendants admit that on Oct. 20, 2001, while U.S. military forces were fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, co-defendant Maher Hawash took them and co-defendant Ford to the airport in Portland, where they flew to Hong Kong to meet with others. In the plea agreement, both defendants state that they entered into mainland China, went to Kashgar in Western China, and tried, unsuccessfully, to gain entrance into Pakistan.
Ahmed and Muhammad Bilal were named in a 15-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Portland in May, along with co-defendants Battle, Ford, al Saoub and October Lewis. That superseding indictment, which also charged co-defendant Maher “Mike” Hawash, included charges of conspiracy to levy war against the United States, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda, conspiracy to contribute services to al Qaeda and the Taliban, conspiracy to possess and discharge firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence, possessing firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence and money laundering.
Hawash entered a guilty plea in August to a charge of conspiracy to supply services to the Taliban. Hawash has also agreed to cooperate fully with the government and testify if necessary at the trial of the remaining defendants in the “Portland cell” case, scheduled for January 2004.
The investigation of this matter was conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Portland, Oregon.