Jury selection in the trial of an Egyptian cleric accused of plotting to bomb U.S. landmarks was marred Thursday with a false fire alarm and a potential juror pointing to the defendant and making a throat-slitting motion.
Valerie Amsterdam, one of the defense lawyers, told U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey that she saw two men in the jury pool talking with each other in the courtroom. One pointed to Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and rolled his eyes while his neighbor made a throat-slitting motion, she said.
The judge told her to point them out if they made it as far as the interviewing process and he would dismiss them. "He told me to give him the high sign, but not to do this," she said, moving her thumb across her throat.
Abdel-Rahman, a blind Muslim cleric, and 11 of his followers are on trial for allegedly plotting to bomb the U.N. headquarters building and bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan.
So far, 400 potential jurors have completed forms and 100 have been interviewed.
The interviewing process Thursday was also disturbed when a fire alarm went off.