“This is not a case about homegrown terrorism, like the government would have us believe,” said Josh Ehrlich of the Cleveland 4 Support Committee. “This is a case that was manufactured and carried out by the FBI in order to undermine political resistance in the United States and to satisfy a quota in its so-called war on terror.”
The defense has consistently argued that Brandon Baxter, Connor Stevens, Douglas L. Wright, and Joshua Stafford were entrapped by Shaquille Azir, 39, a paid FBI informant with a long criminal history.
In addition to employing some of the defendants to do manual labor work for months in advance of the arrests, Azir is also being accused of supplying them with alcohol and illicit pharmaceutical drugs. Azir is even accused of threatening one of the defendants for wanting to pull out shortly before the arrests.
On July 25th, another defendant, Tony Hayne, accepted a cooperating plea deal with the government, agreeing to testify against his co-defendants in exchange for a minimum sentence of 16 years in federal prison. Despite this turn of events, the Cleveland 4 Support Committee, which formed shortly after the arrests, is still expressing vocal support for the other four defendants and trying to shine a light on the questionable nature of the FBI operation.
FBI-originated terror plots have become a trend for the counter-intelligence agency, with a heavy focus on Muslim and political activist communities. Less than a month after the Cleveland arrests, ahead of the NATO demonstrations in Chicago, the FBI helped carry out another plot involving infiltration, incendiary devices, and sensationalized accusations of terror-related crimes. In 2008, in advance of the Republican convention in St. Paul, the FBI used a paid informant to charge three young activists with making Molotov cocktails.
Notably, in almost all contemporary terrorism-related cases, law enforcement itself has supplied the materials to make the fake or real incendiary devices defendants are accused of conspiring to use. The Cleveland case is no exception. Azir and the FBI supplied the fake C-4 and other materials to help advance the law enforcement-initiated plan. However, these details are sidestepped by sensationalized prosecutions intent on discrediting political dissidents by associating so-called “terrorism” crimes with “anarchism” and the Occupy movement.
Further information on the Cleveland 4: