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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Saturday, October 21, 2017

A year ago, pressure cookers packed with steel nuts were used as a bomb with which to terrorize Manhattan’s busy Chelsea neighborhood. On Monday October 2nd, the trial against Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the man accused of setting off the bombs in New Jersey and New York has commenced. The 29-year-old Afghan-born United States citizen from Elizabeth, NJ, has pleaded not guilty.

As reported by the NY Times, prosecutors will use evidence from the defendant’s internet searches, phone videos, text messages, and a personal notebook from his pocket with references to “Brother Osama bin Laden”. Though no one was killed in the attacks, 31 people were injured. A few of the injured victims are expected to testify at the trial, and to tell the horrors of glass and metal fragments which pierced their bodies, as well as their peace of mind. It is anticipated that the prosecution will remind the jury how lucky NY was, that only one out of the four bombs exploded as intended. The perpetrator had hoped and planned for a much larger scale of disaster. 

On Sept. 17, 2016 at 9:35 A.M., a loud explosion tore apart a trash can in the town of Seaside Park, N.J., at the finish line of a United States Marine Corps charity race. Thankfully, there was no one nearby, because the race was delayed. That evening, a much larger blast ripped through a Dumpster in Chelsea on West 23rd Street, throwing the heavy trash container up 120 feet into the air, sending pedestrians running for their lives.  Four blocks away, on West 27th Street, police did a great job finding and disarming a similar device, on which they found a dozen fingerprints which matched Rahimi’s. Another backpack carrying pipe bombs was discovered in the Elizabeth, N.J. train station. Only two days after the terror had begun, police identified the suspect, publicized his photo and found him based on a tip.  Two police officers were wounded in the shootout to capture Rahimi, who was also wounded.

Rahimi’s trial in the Federal District Court in Manhattan is expected to last at least two weeks, with Judge Richard M. Berman presiding. He was indicted on charges of using a weapon of mass destruction, planting bombs and transporting explosives over state lines. Rahimi will face a mandatory life imprisonment sentence if convicted of either of two counts in the indictment.

Rahimi is charged separately in New Jersey State and federal courts for crimes related to the police shootout and the NJ bombs. Prosecutors may not make reference to the shootout during this trial, because after much deliberation it was decided not to be relevant to this case, but extremely influential for the jury. Reference to the New Jersey bombs, however, will be permitted at this trial, as the devices were similar in construction to those used in NY.

Rahimi’s attorneys have been extremely busy arguing to exclude several pieces of evidence before the jury in this trial. Further, last week his attorney requested for Rahimi to be excused from the court proceedings on Fridays for prayer. The judge said he would allow his absence, and that the trial would carry on without him.

It is presumed that Rahimi worked and planned alone. No terror group has claimed responsibility for the bombings or for any role in training Rahimi. His infatuation for those groups, as implied in his pocket journal, seems not to have been directly elicited.

By Hellen Zaboulani