Crime

In handwritten motion, accused Keys terrorist asks judge to drop charges, judge says no

A Stock Island man facing trial on federal terrorism charges that say he planned to plant bombs in South Florida recently made a personal plea for freedom, handwritten in both his native Spanish and English, to the judge handling his case.

Harlem Suarez, 24, said he has evidence to show he is a law-abiding "responsible gun owner" coerced into accepting an explosive from an FBI agent.

Nothing proves he is a political extremist or an ISIS fanatic, Suarez wrote.

"All charges should be dropped in good faith and in the interest of justice," Suarez wrote in a 13-page motion to dismiss the government's case filed May 26.

The plea failed quickly, with the judge tossing the motion, citing a legal rule barring a defendant with attorneys to start representing himself.

"Defendant is represented by counsel," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Jose Martinez wrote, dismissing the filing a day later. "All pleadings must be filed by counsel of record."

Suarez also told the judge he has been confined to a secure housing unit at the federal detention center in Miami for nine months, where phone calls and trips to the law library are restricted.

"I'm requesting your help because I can't properly handle my case in segregation," the handwritten letter reads.

Suarez, arrested last July 28, is accused of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization.

"I'm gonna do the backpack," Suarez was recorded telling an undercover FBI agent, who said it's a reference to a backpack bomb. "That's for sure I'm gonna do the backpack."

His trial is set for July 11 in Key West.

Federal prosecutors say he identifies himself as a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Suarez reportedly told undercover FBI informants on July 3 he wanted to attack police by either blowing up a car bomb or by placing bombs under police cruisers. An informant posing as a member of Islamic State told Suarez at a meeting in a Homestead hotel room he would get back to him with prices for grenades and other material needed to make a backpack bomb.

FBI agents arrested Suarez after he met with an informant who showed him how to detonate explosives.

Suarez came to the attention of law enforcement in April 2015, when an unidentified person reported to the Palm Beach County Sheriff a Facebook friend request from someone that included extremist rhetoric about recruiting for ISIL.

That friend request was from an account user named Almlak Benitez, who federal agents determined was really Harlem Suarez, then a 23-year-old living with his parents in an apartment on Shrimp Road on Stock Island.

"Be a warrior, learn how to cut your enemies head [sic] and then burn down the body learn how to be the new future of the world Caliphate," Suarez posted on Facebook around April 7, 2015, prosecutors said.

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