Portland, Oregon -
The jury in the trial of a Somali-American accused of plotting to blow up a Christmas tree ceremony retired to consider its verdict on Wednesday after lawyers made closing arguments.
Attorneys for Mohamed Mohamud, 21, argued that he was tricked by undercover FBI agents who provided him with fake explosives to target the Yuletide ceremony in Portland, Oregon on November 26, 2010.
But prosecutors in the northwestern US state insisted during the three-week trial that the young man actively participated in a plot that could have killed thousands, had the bomb been real.
Mohamud could face life in prison if convicted of planning to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Defense lawyer Stephen Sady said Mohamud, who was first contacted by an undercover agent a year before the attempted bombing, was a troubled teenager led on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - and not a terrorist.
“He's not a threat,” the publicly-appointed attorney said in closing arguments Wednesday, cited by local ABC television affiliate KATU. “He's simply a person trying to live through a difficult adolescence.”
“In America, the government cannot create a crime,” he added.
But Assistant US Attorney Ethan Knight dismissed the claim, saying: “We are not talking about an adolescent period .. We're talking about a bomb.”
When Mohamud pressed a button he thought was rigged to a massive bomb at a traditional Christmas ceremony attended by thousands, he was “totally at peace,” said Knight.
“That calm only evaporated when the bombing didn't happen,” he said.
After Mohamud tried twice to detonate the bomb, the FBI arrested him.
At the start of the trial one FBI agent, giving evidence in disguise, maintained that Mohamud was prone to violence from the beginning and spoke of plans to “wage war” on the United States.
To test Mohamud's resolve, the agent - who was posing as an al-Qaeda recruiter named “Youssef” - said that in his first meeting with Mohamud, he gave the then-teenager five examples of how he could be “a good Muslim.”
According to Youssef - whose real name was withheld in court - Mohamud stopped short of the most extreme option, martyrdom, but chose violence over praying five times a day or raising money for militant groups.
The defense argued that FBI agents such as Youssef used powerful psychological tools to brainwash a confused teenager, giving him specific instructions on how to plan an attack he wasn't capable of on his own.
Under US law, it is illegal for authorities to trick someone into committing a crime.
But Youssef said he was simply trying to assess whether Mohamud was truly capable of acting on his violent rhetoric.
The young man's fate hinges on whether jurors believe he was already predisposed to violence when agents posing as terrorists approached him and offered help in plotting an attack. - Sapa-AFP