[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] heard defense arguments in the appeal of three guilty bench verdicts handed down in 2004 to three US Muslims in the 'Virginia Jihad network' case [JURIST report]. Masoud Khan was convicted of conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to contribute services to the Taliban, and Seifullah Chapman and Hammad Abdur-Raheem were convicted of lesser terror-related conspiracy charges for their participation in paintball games in 2000 and 2001 that federal judge Leonie Brinkema found were sponsored by Taliban recruiting group Lashkar-e-Taiba [BBC profile]. The three defendants are seeking to reverse the convictions handed down by Brinkema, who also presided over the recently-concluded Zacarias Moussaoui trial [JURIST news archive] .
Lawyers for Chapman and Abdur-Raheem argued that their clients' Seventh Amendment right to an impartial trial by jury was violated when they were forced to choose between a bench trial and a jury trial that would be tainted by the more serious charges against Khan and the public sentiment inflamed by the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Khan's counsel also argued that the trials should have been separated, saying that his client was pressured into the bench trial by his co-defendants. The Fourth Circuit panel seemed receptive to the arguments of the US Attorney prosecuting the case, who said the defendants must take responsibility for their deliberate tactical decision to submit to a bench trial. AP has more.