By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press
SANTA FE, NM (AP) — A second defendant invokes the right to a speedy trial in the 2018 raid on a squalid family compound in northern New Mexico that uncovered the remains of a 3-year-old boy and drove on charges of kidnapping, firearms and terrorism, defense attorneys confirmed Thursday.
Subhanah Wahhaj, one of five defendants jailed since the raid, denies the charges against her and told federal prosecutors and a U.S. District Court judge in Albuquerque this week of her right to a trial within a reasonable time after his arrest.
“We filed the Notice of Speedy Trial because it’s been (almost) four years, and based on the evidence in the case, we no longer believe our client belongs in jail,” said Ryan Villa, a court-appointed lawyer for Wahhaj. .
Wahhaj was arrested in August 2018 along with her husband and three other adults from an extended family during a law enforcement raid on a ramshackle remote desert encampment surrounded by used tire berms with an adjacent firing range . Authorities were looking for a sick 3-year-old child who had been reported missing by his mother in Georgia.
Sheriff’s deputies and state agents first found 11 starving children and a small arsenal of ammunition and firearms. After days of searching, they found the 3-year-old’s decomposed remains in an underground tunnel.
Trial preparations have been largely put on hold as the court deals with the mental health issues of four defendants. A new court filing indicates that three defendants have been found mentally fit to stand trial – Subhanah Wahhaj, her sister Hujrah Wahhaj and Haitian national Jany Leveille.
An evaluation and possible treatment are pending for Lucas Morton, Subhanah’s husband.
Subhanah, the mother of four children detained in the 2018 raid, was pregnant when arrested and gave birth to a child while incarcerated.
Authorities said the child who died, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, suffered from untreated disabilities as father Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and his partner Leveille performed daily prayer rituals on him – even as he wept and foamed at the blocked. Authorities also said Léveillé believed the drugs suppressed the group’s Muslim beliefs.
Medical examiners determined that the child had died several months before his body was recovered.
A grand jury indictment alleges that Leveille and his partner instructed people in the compound to prepare to engage in jihad and die as martyrs, and that another relative was asked to bring money and guns.
The five defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and provide material support to each other as potential terrorists by crossing state lines with firearms and training in the compound of New Mexico.
The defendants denied all charges. Defense attorneys said their clients would not be charged with terrorism if they were not Muslim.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj also protested trial delays.
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