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Alwan Takes Plea Deal

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Sahim Alwan Tuesday became the fourth suspect to admit in Buffalo's federal court he supported terrorism.

Alwan was the only one of the so-called Lackawanna six who was initially granted bail.

But as his co-defendants began pleading guilty and offering to testify, that decision and hopes for his release vanished.

Alwan entered the court room solemnly Tuesday morning wearing an orange prison sweatsuit, as his wife looked on from across the room.

The thirty year-old father of three faces nine years in prison for knowingly attending an al Qaida training camp.

Without the plea, Alwan, a former youth counselor, could have faced ten years, or more, as well as additional charges, possibly as an enemy combatant.

His attorney James Harrington said Alwan made the lesser of two bad choices.

"He analyzed and assessed the likelihood that he could get a fair jury given the political climate and atmosphere and comments made by the president, vice president and attorney general, regarding this case," said Harrington.

"He also analyzed and considered the problems that we have with criminal cases in federal court getting discovery, especially where the government would claim there are national security issues."

Despite that, Harrington said Alwan holds no grudges against the government.

Indeed, as Alwan walked past the prosecution table in handcuffs, he nodded a friendly hello to the two FBI agents who helped gather testimony against him.

U.S. Prosecutor William Hochul said Alwan and the three other defendants who have entered guilty pleas have been very cooperative so far.

Hochul said defendants have been able to corraborate information for investigators.

"The information that Mr. Alwan described today was consistent with some of the information that the other defendants said when they were relating to what Mr. bin Laden told them at the training camp, namely there were people willing to take their souls in their hands."

But there was also some new leads revealed Tuesday.

In his plea statenment, Alwan testified that there were seven, as yet unnamed men, who either recruited, supplied money, or went along on the trip to Afghanistan in the summer of 2001.

And he said there was second group of Lackawanna men who had been considering a trip to the training camp.

U.S. Attorney Michael Battle would not rule out the possibility of more arrests.

"We learn more about this as we go on and any further evidence of any additional criminality on the part of any defendants or potential defendants in this case will be considered."

Meanwhile, prosecutors said plea deals for the remaining two Lackawanna suspects are also pending.

However, they said, for now, a trial is still planned.