ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A federal trial is set to begin against 13 men accused of illegally smuggling millions of dollars’ worth of the illegal African drug khat (COT).

Prosecutors in Alexandria charged the men, all natives of Somalia or Yemen, last year with operating a smuggling ring that imported nearly 10,000 pounds of the leaf since 2005. The drug is popular in East Africa and parts of the Arabian peninsula; users chew on the leaf to induce feelings of euphoria.

Two of the ring’s alleged ringleaders have already pleaded guilty and were sentenced to multiple years in prison.

A judge has already barred one potential defense. He told lawyers that they may not argue to the jury that use of khat is culturally acceptable in the defendants’ home countries.

Jury selection begins Tuesday.


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