New development in Libya arms trafficking case

Last November I covered the story of Marc Turi, an arms dealer who was indicted for allegedly lying on his export license application. He is accused of declaring Qatar to be the “end user” of his weapons when he intended for them to end up in the hands of anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya. Turi’s defense has utilized the public authority defense, alleging that he was part of a covert operation to arm the Libyan rebels in 2011.

In a filing by Turi’s defense team from a couple of weeks ago requesting the disclosure of certain grand jury materials, an incident before the grand jury in which the prosecution silenced a retired CIA officer is cited. The retired officer, David Manners, served as the CIA’s station chief in both Prague, Czechoslovakia and Amman, Jordan. During his grand jury testimony on 2 July 2013, he “began to explain covert arms transfers to the grand jury, believing it to be germane to the Government’s line of questioning.” In his own words:

I was abruptly interrupted by the attorney for the United States who told me to stop speaking because I was not asked a question. Near the conclusion of my testimony, a member of the grand jury asked whether the United States Government, either directly or indirectly, supplied weapons to the Libyan Transitional National Council. I began answering the grand juror’s question affirmatively, but was again abruptly interrupted by the same Assistant United States Attorney who said something to the effect of “You don’t know that.” But I do “know that.” It was then, and remains now, my opinion that the United States did participate, directly or indirectly, in the supply of weapons to the Libyan Transitional National Council.

According to the defense’s filing, this conduct on the part of the prosecution may enable a dismissal of the indictment. It cites a case in which it was ruled that charges may be dismissed when “[prosecutorial] misconduct has significantly infringed upon the grand jury’s ability to exercise its independent judgment.”

The case may appear bizarre since the US government seemingly has little incentive to railroad its own covert arms dealers. But when read in context with a New York Times article from 5 December 2012:

Mr. Turi said he believed that United States officials had shut down his proposed arms pipeline because he was getting in the way of the Obama administration’s dealings with Qatar. The Qataris, he complained, imposed no controls on who got the weapons. “They just handed them out like candy,” he said.

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