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New Mexico compound suspects plead not guilty, targeted as Muslims: lawyers

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Five people arrested last August at a New Mexico compound where the body of a toddler was found pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal terrorism charges their lawyers say were brought largely because they are Muslims.

The three women and two men faced charges last week of conspiring to support planned attacks on U.S. law enforcement officers, military members and government employees while living in their makeshift home in Taos County, New Mexico.

They have been in federal custody since August on separate charges filed following a police raid on the remote compound where they lived with 11 children.

“They’re innocent, they plead not guilty and we probably wouldn’t be in this position if they weren’t Muslims,” said defense attorney Amy Sirignano by phone.

The case gained significant attention after Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the group were “extremist of the Muslim belief” and prosecutors accused them of training two teenage sons to carry out school shootings.

Defendants Jany Leveille, 36, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, Subhanah Wahhaj, 36, and Lucas Morton, 41, are all related as siblings or by marriage.

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Prosecutors have said the 3-year-old boy found buried at the camp, the son of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, died in a ritual to “cast out demonic spirits,” and his extended family believed he would “return as Jesus” to identify corrupt targets for them to attack.

Results of the boy’s autopsy have yet to be made public.

All, except Ibn Wahhaj, are charged with the kidnapping of the boy resulting in his death and could face the death penalty, said Sirignano.

Under federal law, parents cannot be charged with kidnapping their own children within the United States, she said.

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The five initially faced state child abuse charges, but that case was dismissed when prosecutors missed a procedural deadline.

Defense attorneys said the group were exercising their rights to teach their children how to shoot, practice their religion and live “off-the-grid.”

“This case is about freedom of religion, freedom of association and the right to bear arms,” defense lawyer Billy Blackburn told reporters.

Reporting By Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Grant McCool

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Revealing gruesome new details of Khashoggi murder, UN report says ‘inconceivable’ crown prince not involved

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In a thorough and damning report on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi released Wednesday, United Nations special rapporteur Agnes Callamard found that Khashoggi was "the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing" that was likely orchestrated by top officials in the Saudi government, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources, and finances," Callamard wrote. "Every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched."

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Critics lament as 126 House Democrats join forces with GOP to hand Trump ‘terrifying’ mass domestic spying powers

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Privacy advocates and civil liberties defenders are expressing outrage after the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night voted down a bipartisan amendment designed to end, as one group put it, the U.S. government's "most egregious mass surveillance practices" first revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In a final vote of 253-175, it was 126 Democrats who joined with 127 Republicans to vote against an amendment introduced by Rep Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would have closed loopholes in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that critics charge has allowed the NSA to abuse warrantless surveillance capabilities and target the emails, text messages, and internet activity of U.S. citizens and residents. See the full roll call here.

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Pilots, including Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, tell US Congress more training needed on 737 MAX

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US pilots called Wednesday for enhanced pilot training on the Boeing 737 MAX before the aircraft is returned to service after being grounded worldwide following two deadly crashes.

The pilots -- including Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, who famously landed a damaged plane on the Hudson River in New York in 2009 -- pushed back against the aviation giant's assurances that pilots will only need to review the 737 MAX modifications in a computer program.

Daniel Carey, president of the Allied Pilots Association, told a congressional panel he was encouraged by changes Boeing made to a flight system seen as a factor in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes that killed 346 people.

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