Jurors on Monday heard a Florida doctor talking about his support to an FBI agent posing as an al-Qaida recruiter in tapes made secretly as part of a terrorism investigation.
The oath occurred in a Bronx apartment as FBI Agent Ali Soufan sought to learn whether the doctor, Rafiq Abdus Sabir, was serious about wanting to help the organization led by Osama bin Laden, the agent testified.
Soufan told the jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that he was on his knees as he delivered the oath in Arabic and English to Sabir and his close friend, jazz musician and martial arts expert Tarik Shah.
After each man individually pledged his allegiance to the organization, Soufan clasped hands with each man, he testified.
"Upon finishing, we hugged like we're al-Qaida brothers now," Soufan said.
The testimony by Soufan and the tape of the Bronx meeting is a critical part of the case against Sabir, who was not on many other audio tapes made in the FBI undercover sting operation that also resulted in charges against three others - Shah, a Washington D.C. cab driver and a Brooklyn bookstore owner.
Several weeks ago, Shah pleaded guilty to charges that could bring him 15 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year. The other two defendants also have pleaded guilty to charges, leaving Sabir alone at the defense table. He faces 30 years in prison if he is convicted.
In Sabir's defense, lawyer Ed Wilford called a Middle East studies expert who explained to jurors that someone who pledges an oath to an organization or individual can later back out of the pledge if he is asked to do something sinful.
Wilford has said there is very little evidence related to his client in the case that began with a government probe started weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Wilford has called Shah "a nut," saying the government wanted to overcome a lack of evidence against Sabir by showing the jury heavy evidence against someone he knew, Shah, and by linking al-Qaida to multiple terrorist attacks.