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Closing arguments in trial in alleged NATO summit attack plot

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Three men accused of plotting to attack high-profile targets during a 2012 NATO summit in Chicago were bent on mayhem, a prosecutor said in closing arguments on Thursday.

But a defense attorney said the three only talked big to impress undercover officers.

The men are accused of planning attacks using firebombs, targeting Chicago police stations and President Barack Obama's re-election headquarters, along with other locations.

"While Chicago was on the world stage, their plan was to light a police officer on fire," Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Tom Biesty told jurors. "By attacking the police they planned to attack us all."

Prosecutors charged the so-called NATO 3 defendants - Brian Jacob Church, 22, and Brent Betterly, 25, both of Florida, and Jared Chase, 29, of New Hampshire - with conspiracy to commit terrorism under a state anti-terrorism law adopted after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The case marks the first time Illinois prosecutors had invoked the conspiracy charge.

"Were they bumbling fools or were they cold and calculating terrorists?" Biesty asked the jury. He said they enjoyed talking about setting police on fire.

Church's attorney, Michael Deutsch, told jurors the case hinged on whether the men intended to intimidate a significant portion of the civilian population, and said his client had done nothing but talk.

"Their intent was to talk," Deutsch said. "Their intent was to make up things. Their intent was to impress these older undercover officers."

Prosecutors have painted the men as anarchists bent on causing mayhem, offering testimony from two undercover Chicago police officers to show that the defendants were "ready for war."

Chicago police, along with the FBI and the Secret Service, raided their safe house, an apartment on Chicago's South Side, and recovered pipe bomb instructions, an improvised mortar made from PVC piping, a crossbow, knives, throwing stars, a map of Chicago and four firebombs, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys have said the men were more focused on getting high than being violent. They said the defendants were egged on by undercover officers and that the charges were politically motivated to justify the millions of dollars spent on security for the summit.

(Editing by David Bailey, Sharon Bernstein, Mohammad Zargham and Jonathan Oatis)

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