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Federal judge denies bid to close hearing in Ga. terrorism case

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA — A federal judge has denied a defense request to bar news media from a suppression hearing later this month in a terrorism case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Gerrilyn Brill on Oct. 12 said the news media have a First Amendment right to attend hearings in criminal proceedings unless specific findings are made demonstrating that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.

In her order, Brill said, “Defendant’s motion does not come close to giving the court grounds to make the specific findings required by the law before a criminal hearing may be closed to the public.”

On Oct. 11, terrorism suspect Syed Ahmed’s attorney, Jack Martin, filed a motion seeking to have the news media barred from a hearing that will address a defense request to suppress statements Ahmed made to law enforcement.

He said the reason for the request is that the government plans to play in court at the hearing a recording of the 12 hours of conversations they had with Ahmed.

Tom Clyde, an attorney who has represented the Associated Press and other news organizations in the case, said Brill’s decision to keep the hearing open was the right one.

“Judge Brill was right to recognize that if we close the court room every time significant evidence gets considered, we would quickly undermine the meaning of an open court system,” Clyde said. “This is an important hearing and it’s important for it to be open.”

Ahmed and co-defendant Ehsanul Sadequee, both U.S. citizens, are accused of undergoing training to carry out a “violent jihad” against civilian and government targets, including an air base in suburban Atlanta.

News media seek access to evidence in terrorism case
Groups ask federal judge to release audio, video court records key to upcoming trial against man accused of aiding terrorist organization. 05.30.09

Federal court denies U.S. request to seal files in terror trial
'The press and the public enjoy a qualified First Amendment right of access to criminal trial proceedings,' district court in Georgia rules. 10.27.06

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