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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
'White supremacists' on trial in Boston
Boston skyline
The couple were arrested in Boston in April 2001
The trial of two alleged white supremacists accused of plotting to blow up Jewish and black landmarks in an attempt to ignite a "racial holy war" has begun in Boston, Massachusetts.

These are profoundly serious charges

Director of the Anti-Defamation League Robert Leikind
Leo Felton - the 31-year-old son of a white mother and black father who were both civil rights activists - and his 22-year-old girlfriend Erica Chase are charged with conspiracy, making counterfeit bills, obstruction of justice, and firearms and explosives violations, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Mr Felton is also charged with bank robbery and conspiracy to commit bank robbery.

The couple have pleaded innocent to all charges, for which Mr Felton could face life in prison and Ms Chase up to 35 years.

Jury selection is expected to take at least a week owing to the sensitive nature of the case.

Investigators' discovery

The couple were arrested in Boston in April 2001 after attempting to use counterfeit money to buy food in a store.

US guard in prison
US prisons are a fertile recruitment ground for white supremacist groups

A resulting search of the couple's apartment uncovered bomb-making materials, including 23 kilos of ammonium nitrate, a prime ingredient in the explosive device used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation also found books on terrorism with instructions on how to kill people using nerve gas, and newspaper clippings of Boston landmarks linked to Jewish groups.

Prosecutors allege that the evidence is a clear indication the couple wished to blow up structures, "thereby advancing the defendants' anti-Semitic and white-supremacist goals and igniting a 'racial holy war'".

However Ms Chase claims that the couple had not obtained the materials for any reason other than to build bombs to detonate on the beach for "entertainment".

Supremacist links

Mr Felton's history reveals associations with white supremacist groups he was exposed to during his time in prison for the attempted murder of a black cab driver, the prosecution says.

US prisons are considered fertile ground for recruiters belonging to racist organisations such as the Aryan Nations and the Aryan Brotherhood.

Prosecutors claim Mr Felton is a member of a violent white supremacist organisation known as the White Order of Thule.

Mr Felton began a relationship with Ms Chase after she wrote to him in prison, but the pair first met only days after his release.

Their lawyer fears that the prosecutors' emphasis on the pair's alleged links to such right-wing organisations, coupled with the nation's fear of terrorism following the 11 September attacks, may lead them to a prejudicial decision.

However, the director of the Anti-Defamation League, Robert Leikind, said that the enormity of what the couple had allegedly planned should not be underestimated.

"These are profoundly serious charges," he said.

See also:

30 Aug 01 | Americas
27 Mar 01 | Americas
25 Jan 02 | Europe
11 Jun 01 | Americas
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