NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Pakistani man used a code in which women’s names substituted for bomb materials when he would email with al Qaeda about a plot to kill hundreds of people in England in 2009, a U.S. prosecutor said on Monday.
Abid Naseer sent an al Qaeda operative emails with stilted language about women and a wedding, but the emails were actually about a planned car bombing, prosecutor Zainab Ahmad told jurors at the close of a federal trial in Brooklyn, New York.
The emails contained women’s names like Huma and Nadia in place of bomb making materials starting with the same letter, such as hydrogen peroxide and nitrate, she said.
“They’re so coded that they’re half gibberish,” yet they reflected Nasser’s intent to carry out an attack on al Qaeda’s behalf, Ahmad said in her closing argument.
Naseer, representing himself, insisted in his closing argument that he was innocent, He said he had been “chasing women on the Internet” and planning a wedding.
“There’s nothing out of the ordinary the defendant was doing,” Naseer said, referring to himself in the third-person. “He was young, a bit desperate and wanted to settle down. Is there anything wrong with this?”
Jurors are expected to begin deliberating on Tuesday. Naseer, 28, faces up to life in prison if convicted of providing and conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and conspiring to use a destructive device.
Prosecutors say Naseer was the leader of an al Qaeda cell that plotted to bomb a shopping center in Manchester, England, in 2009, an attack authorities say was foiled by their arrest.
The plot was one of three that al Qaeda cells were working on, along with planned attacks against the New York City subway system and a Copenhagen newspaper, prosecutors say.
Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and President Barack Obama’s nominee for U.S. attorney general, attended closing arguments.
Prosecutors say Naseer coordinated his plans through a Pakistan-based al Qaeda facilitator, “Sohaib,” using email addresses under women’s names intended to disguise his identity and describing the attack as a wedding.
Naseer, who has a black beard and wore a green collared shirt, spent most of his closing argument reading transcripts aloud. No evidence, he said, could link him to a planned attack.
Ahmad said Naseer was lying to cover up “that this was al Qaeda standard operating procedure.”
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by David Ingram and David Gregorio