He wrote in his diary that he wanted to make explosions in America, but the leader of an Albany mosque now says he never intended to target the U.S. That, as Yassin Aref spent a second day on the stand in federal court.
He is defending writings prosecutors showed to the jury from the diary he kept years ago, before he came here.
One-by-one, Aref tried to explain in great detail diary entries that prosecutors have previously used to try to tie his beliefs to those of radical Islamists.
And as Yassin Aref sat on the stand for nearly seven hours Thursday, you did not get the impression from the jury that they were listening to a man accused of having terrorist ties, as they smiled and even sometimes laughed at the jokes of the man on trial.
Yassin Aref walked jurors through a year of his life, explaining dozens of personal diary entries written in 1999. On January 28th, Aref wrote about a conversation he had with two men who came to his home, writing that they discussed moving the war to America and making explosions there.
From the stand, Aref spoke deliberately, with passion, looking often at the jury. He said, “I believe this is one of the big things I am accused of, trying to bring war to this country or destroy this country. Please let me explain this to the court.”
“My point from the diary,” Aref says, “it doesn't show I am happy with what they say or that I support what they say. It shows that I distrust whatever they say.”
Aref pointed to the 9/11 hijackers, saying, “they were only here for six months before the crime. I have been here for seven years and show me any evidence of a crime.”
The diary holds numerous mentions of political leaders and members of different organizations, all because, according to Aref, he was a driver for the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, or IMK; merely an employee Aref says, and never an actual member.
As a religious teacher, Aref testified that he wanted to remain independent of political organizations.
Aref's attorney, Terry Kindlon, has finished direct examination as court wrapped up Thursday. Cross examination by federal prosecutors will begin when court resumes Friday morning.
If you would like to read more of those diary entries written by Yassin Aref in 1999, click here.