3 Brothers, 3 Life Terms: Fallout from the Fort Dix Plot
“We dreamed an American dream,” Ferik Duka says, lighting another cigarette. “We loved this country. We still do.” Across the spacious Cherry Hill living room, his wife, Zurata, nods. So does their son Burim, 24, whose older brothers, Dritan, Shain, and Eljvir, are serving life sentences for conspiring to kill American military personnel at Fort Dix. The charges followed a 16-month federal investigation that yielded hundreds of hours of surveillance video and audio recordings. The trial in US District Court in Camden took three months, and jurors deliberated for six days before delivering their verdict Dec. 22, 2008. For the Dukas — a family of ethnic Albanian Muslims who emigrated to the United States illegally in 1984 — the truth is this: Dritan, Shain, and Eljvir were targeted because of their religion. Ferik, 69, and his wife insist that their three older sons, all of whom were under 30 when they were arrested May 7, 2007, were manipulated by a sketchy pair of paid government informants who goaded them into appearing to support violent jihad. The Dukas describe their sons as hardworking family men too busy doing good deeds in the community to be radicalized. They say Dritan and Shain were entrapped into illegally buying AK-47s and other firearms. Men of Albanian extraction, Burim explains, love guns.And all three brothers, the family contends, were convicted by a legal system that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been willing to believe the worst about young Muslim men. The brothers’ friends Mohamad Shnewer and Serdar Tatar also were charged and convicted. Although she and her family blame the guilty verdicts partly on the media, they are heartened that The Intercept and other online, as well as print, publications are raising questions. “For many scholars, lawyers, and human-rights advocates, the Dukas’ case remains one of the most egregious post-9/11 entrapment cases,” notes Sally Eberhardt, a researcher for Educators for Civil Liberties in New York City. New York lawyer Robert J. Boyle, who represents the three, filed a motion in February 2014 asking the federal court in Camden to vacate the convictions and sentences. It contends that the Duka brothers were “coerced” by their lawyers against testifying at trial. The motion is pending before the trial judge, Robert B. Kugler.