Witnesses can testify at terror suspect’s trial in disguise, judge says

Harlem Suarez
Harlem Suarez

The federal government’s secret informant and undercover agents who helped catch a suspected Key West terrorist last summer may testify at trial using fake names and even disguises, a judge has ruled.

Harlem Suarez, 24, a high school dropout arrested last July 28, is accused of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization.

“I'm gonna do the backpack," Suarez was recorded telling an undercover FBI agent, who said it was a reference to a backpack bomb. “That's for sure I'm gonna do the backpack.”

A jury trial is set for Jan. 23 in Key West before Judge Jose E. Martinez.

Two FBI agents and one confidential informant “may testify under their undercover pseudonyms at trial without disclosing their true identities,” Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow wrote in an Aug. 17 ruling. “The defense shall be prohibited from asking any questions seeking personal identifying information from or about [them].”

Also, the witnesses may enter and leave the courthouse from a non-public doorway and their voices and pictures may not be publicly disclosed through any recordings or images, Snow ordered.

While on the stand, they “may testify using a light disguise, such as changing their facial hair, hairstyle or dress style,” Snow added.

Prosecutors say Suarez identifies as a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, while Suarez’s lawyers have depicted him as a young man who is “very immature and has a low intellect,” but hardly a terrorist.

Suarez reportedly told undercover FBI informants on July 3 he wanted to attack police by either blowing up a car bomb or by placing bombs under police cruisers.

An informant posing as a member of Islamic State told Suarez at a meeting in a Homestead hotel room he would get back to him with prices for grenades and other material needed to make a backpack bomb. FBI agents arrested Suarez after he met with an informant who showed him how to detonate explosives.

Suarez legally purchased an AK-47 military-type rifle online and had it shipped to a local pawn shop. But when he arrived to pick it up he learned he had filled out the paperwork incorrectly and left empty-handed.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen