U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour scheduled closing arguments for this morning, after which the Los Angeles federal court jury will decide whether Ressam was a member of a conspiracy to launch a terrorist attack in the western United States during the millennium New Year's celebrations.
Ressam faces nine felony charges stemming from his alleged attempt to enter the United States from Canada on Dec. 14, 1999, with four electronic timers and more than 110 pounds of urea and other explosive materials stashed in the spare-tire wheel well of his rental car.
Ressam's lawyers have maintained that Ressam was merely a courier and that the other Algerian indicted, Abdelmajid Dahoumane, was the brains behind the operation. Dahoumane had been considered a fugitive until it was revealed during the trial that he had been arrested in Algeria.
Federal prosecutors say that Ressam was a skilled bomb maker who assembled the bomb ingredients at a Vancouver, British Columbia, motel and then planned to drive the materials to Seattle for delivery to another Algerian.
Although a definite target of the alleged bomb plot was never publicly confirmed, Ressam's arrest prompted Seattle to cancel a New Year's Eve fireworks show at the landmark Space Needle.
Testimony Wednesday came from Frederic Whitehurst, a former FBI explosives expert who expressed doubts about the thoroughness of the investigation of Ressam. The Seattle Times said Whitehurst noted that Ressam's hands had not been tested for explosive residue and that similar residue apparently was not found in the motel room where the defendants allegedly mixed the explosives found in Ressam's car.
The prosecution rested Tuesday after presenting 110 witnesses over more than three weeks. The final testimony came from a French judge who has led investigations into the Algerian terrorist organization Armed Islamic Group.
Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere had testified outside the presence of the jury that Ressam and a number of other Algerians living in Montreal were members of a cell of Armed Islamic Group, and that Ressam had links to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan reputedly run by Osama bin Laden.
After Bruguiere's initial testimony this week, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour ruled that the Frenchman's testimony was largely his opinion and that the reputed links to bin Laden would not be presented to the jury.
On Tuesday, Coughenour repeatedly upheld defense objections to questions by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Gonzalez that strayed too close to the excluded information.
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