Earth First lawyer may take Portland Six case
- Jim Redden
- Portland Tribune - News
Robert Bloom honed his legal skills defending Earth First suspects
Members of the local Muslim community are working to bring a nationally known activist attorney into the so-called Portland Six case.
Attorney Robert Bloom, of Berkeley, Calif., said he has been asked to 'get involved' in the federal case against six current and former Portland Muslims accused of forming an al-Qaida sleeper cell and conspiring to wage war against the United States.
Although Bloom declined to discuss the extent of his discussions, he said on Wednesday that a decision about his involvement could be made within the week.
Bloom was a member of the legal team that represented Earth First activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney in their successful 11-year civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland Police Department.
Although Bloom would not talk about his possible involvement in the local case, an attorney familiar with the situation said that some Portland Muslims are worried that one or more of the current defense attorneys might not have enough experience to handle such a high-profile case.
The attorney, who asked not to be identified, said the Muslims hope an attorney with a proven record in such cases would agree to represent one or more of the defendants. The attorney would not say which of the defense attorneys were not considered to be up to the task.
The terrorism defendants are Jeffrey Leon Battle, Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, Patrice Lumumba Ford, October Martinique Lewis and Jabis Abdulla Al Saoub, who is still at large.
Five of the six were indicted Oct. 4 on charges of conspiring to travel to Afghanistan to fight the U.S. force during the war against the Taliban. The sixth, Lewis, is charged with wiring money to help finance their travels.
Several of the local attorneys representing the Portland Six say they have received calls from Bloom during the past few weeks.
'He called up to introduce himself and say he had been approached by the local community to get involved,' said attorney John Ransom, who represents Lewis.
Asked what Bloom meant by 'the community,' Ransom replied, 'the Muslim community.' Neither Ransom nor other local attorneys would identify those seeking Bloom's input.
Bloom did not mention any specific names, Ransom said. And neither Ransom nor other local attorneys would identify those seeking Bloom's input.
According to Ransom, Bloom asked a number of questions about the case that were a matter of public record.
'I answered those questions, and that was it,' Ransom said.
If Bloom steps into the fray, it will not be the first time a nationally known activist lawyer has taken over a politically charged case involving a local Muslim.
New York civil rights attorney Stanley Cohen replaced Phil Lewis as the lawyer for Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, the religious leader of the Islamic Center of Portland, also known as Masjed As-Saber.
Kariye was arrested on Social Security fraud charges by the Portland FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force on Sept. 8. Although Lewis was originally appointed by the court to represent him, Kariye replaced him with Cohen in late September.
Bloom's involvement in the Bari and Cherney cases made him a hero within the environmental community.
The two Earth First activists were seriously injured during a 1990 car bombing. The FBI and Oakland police originally accused the pair of building and transporting the bomb. Bari and Cherney never were charged with any crimes related to the bombing, however, and eventually they sued the two agencies for violating their civil rights.
Last June, a federal grant jury ruled in favor of Bari and Cherney, awarding them $4.4 million. Because Bari died in 1997, her $2.9 million went to her estate.