Three brothers can return to a New Jersey courtroom to challenge their convictions of plotting terrorist attacks at military bases, including Fort Dix, a judge ruled.

Fort Dix (Mel Evans/Associated Press)

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler made the ruling Wednesday, saying that Drita, Shain and Eljvir Duka have a right to appear in the court for legal hearings, the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill reported.

The three former Cherry Hill residents are serving life sentences after their 2008 convictions for a conspiracy to attack the Burlington County military base. A federal jury found the brothers and two other defendants guilty after hearing they engaged in military-style training, viewed videos of jihadist beheadings and sought illegal firearms, including machine guns.

The men, who are being held in separate federal prisons, say their defense lawyers violated their constitutional rights when they did not allow the men testify at trial. Kugler rejected six claims that the lawyers were ineffective, but the judge called for the Dukas and their former attorneys to provide evidence about the claim that they were denied their right to testify.

The men say they couldn't testify because their attorneys claimed to be unprepared. The brothers must show their attorneys' actions "fell below an objective standard of reasonableness" and likely influenced the trial's outcome, according to Kugler's ruling.

Federal prosecutors said the defense attorneys have denied the brothers' allegations and have argued the brothers' claims contradict "assurances they gave the court during trial regarding giving up their right to testify."

The attorneys -- Michael Riley, Troy Archie and Michael Huff-- didn't respond to requests for comment.

Prosecutors also tried to prevent the brothers' return to southern New Jersey, arguing the men could testify from prison, but Kugler ruled that they should appear in the courtroom.

The brothers will be in a Camden courtroom on Jan. 6 for separate hearings.

 

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