U.S. wants testimony of foreign witness in ISIS trial

Published 2:55 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

By JUSTIN STORY, Bowling Green Daily News

A potential witness in the trial of a Bowling Green man accused of joining ISIS is reportedly unwilling and unable to travel to the U.S. to testify, and federal prosecutors have requested taking his testimony ahead of the scheduled trial date.

Prosecutors have filed a motion in the case of Mirsad Ramic to take testimony of the witness by deposition, with video of the testimony to be shown later to jurors at trial.

Ramic, 33, has been indicted in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green on charges of providing material support and resources to ISIS, conspiring to provide material support to ISIS and receiving military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization.

A Bosnian national with U.S. citizenship, Ramic is accused of traveling to Turkey in 2014 and smuggling himself into Syria and joining ISIS, designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.

Court records indicate that Ramic returned to Turkey some time in 2015 and was arrested, prosecuted and convicted by Turkish authorities on terror-related charges.

After serving a prison sentence, Ramic was reportedly deported from Turkey and then flown to the U.S. to face criminal charges here once he was indicted by a federal grand jury.

Ramic’s trial is set to begin Jan. 9 in Bowling Green.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion on Sept. 25 in which they argue that exceptional circumstances allow for a deposition of a witness who they claim is a “former enlistee of ISIS” who met and worked with Ramic in a battalion.

Trial attorney Jessica Fender of the U.S Department of Justice’s National Security Division said in her filing that the witness, identified only as “Witness 2,” is located in a foreign country and unwilling and unable to travel to the U.S. to provide live testimony at trial.

The potential witness is able and willing to take part in a deposition in his current location, and authorities in the country where the man is located have agreed to assist prosecutors in facilitating the deposition, Fender said.

The man is expected to testify that he recognizes Ramic as a person he knew as “Abu Hazim” and that the two met when the potential witness was assigned to a particular battalion in Syria.

The potential witness is expected to claim that Ramic joined the battalion and worked for months with other ISIS members, serving as a guard for silos that housed food and weapons, Fender’s motion said.

“Witness 2 also observed the defendant training in the firing of weapons, being tasked to man a 12-mm anti-aircraft machine gun and participating in infantry action,” Fender said in her filing. “Witness 2 can identify specific individuals within ISIS who worked with the defendant and were in contact with the defendant during this period, including a person whom Witness 2 describes as sharing characteristics with one of the defendant’s named co-conspirators.”

Fender argues that the potential witness testimony is a significant part of the government’s case as it attempts to prove the charges against Ramic and the potential witness is both unwilling to travel to the U.S. and “does not meet the criteria to be permitted to enter the United States.”

Ramic’s attorney, federal public defender Scott Wendelsdorf, filed a motion on Monday asking to be allowed to have until Oct. 31 to file an official response to Fender’s motion, extending by four weeks the deadline to respond.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Greg Stivers issued an order Wednesday setting an Oct. 17 deadline for Wendelsdorf to file a response.

Wendelsdorf has filed multiple motions to dismiss the criminal case and has also requested a change of venue for the trial, asking that it be moved to federal court in Minneapolis.

Wendelsdorf has argued that Ramic’s due process rights were violated in order to bring Ramic to the U.S. for prosecution and that the U.S. lacks jurisdiction to prosecute Ramic since the alleged offenses occurred outside the country.