Accused Terrorist Bangs Head, Collapses in Court

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Montreal man accused of conspiring with Islamic extremists to bomb Los Angeles International Airport during millennium celebrations collapsed in court Friday after he angrily banged his head on a table.

Mokhtar Haouari, 32, became enraged, punching himself in the head and pounding a table, as an alleged co-conspirator who is now a government witness testified against him.

Prosecution witness Abdelghani Meskini told a jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that, in a conversation the two men had, Haouari supported the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

During the testimony, Haouari began grunting and hitting his head with his fists. As jurors gasped, Haouari began striking the table with his hands. He then leaned over, banged his forehead on the table once and then slid back into his chair, his eyes closed and his body limp.

Judge John F. Keenan quickly called for a doctor and ordered the jury out of the room. Court security officers eased Haouari onto the floor, where paramedics attended to him. Haouari appeared to be unconscious for more than 20 minutes and was later treated by a doctor who pronounced him fit to continue with the trial.

Later, Haouari returned to court but told his lawyer he still felt dizzy. The judge adjourned the proceedings for the day but not before warning Haouari about his behavior.

Keenan noted that Haouari had uttered an expletive at prosecutors on the first day of trial Wednesday and that this was the second time he had issued a stern warning.

"You mark my words, mister. One more word and you go right into that pen and you watch it on television," Keenan told Haouari. "This is not a game, and it is not a joke . . . . There is nothing you are going to be able to do to avoid the trial."

Prosecutors contend that Haouari, a Montreal shopkeeper, recruited Meskini to help convicted terrorist Ahmed Ressam get explosives across the U.S.-Canadian border shortly before New Year's Day 2000.

Meskini, who has admitted his role in a conspiracy to "punish" the United States, said he and Haouari had talked several times about declaring jihad, or an Islamic holy war, against America and the West.

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