Two accused of wanting to attack N.Y. synagogues plead not guilty


NEW YORK (JTA) — Two men who allegedly wanted to attack New York synagogues and other targets have pleaded not guilty to weapons and conspiracy charges.

Algeria-born Ahmed Ferhani, 26, and Mohamed Mamdouh, 20, a naturalized American citizen from Morocco, both now living in New York, entered their pleas Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

New York Police arrested the two men after Ferhani purchased guns, ammunition and an inert hand grenade from an undercover police officer. The arrests followed months of surveillance in which police said the suspects were heard discussing attacking Jews and other targets.

Authorities have said that the two were driven by anger over the treatment of Muslims around the world.

The grand jury’s 10-count indictment unsealed Wednesday charged Ferhani and Madouh with felonies under a rarely used New York State anti-terrorism law. According to The New York Times, the charges could yield prison sentences of up to 25 years.

The panel, however, failed to indict the two on the most serious charges, including second-degree conspiracy as a crime of terrorism and as a hate crime, according to the Times.

A lawyer for Ferhani, who has been depicted by authorities as the main plotter, said her client has psychological problems and was entrapped by authorities.

The case is unusual for a terrorism prosecution in that it is being pursued in state court without the involvement of federal authorities. New York Police have said that they do not believe the two had ties to any terrorist groups.

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