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Pakistani Court Finds 5 Americans Guilty of Terror Charges

  • Sean Maroney

A Pakistani court has sentenced five Americans to 10 years each in prison after finding them guilty of terror offenses.

Pakistani officials say five Americans, all Muslims in their early 20s, are guilty of criminal conspiracy to do acts of terrorism and raising funds for criminal activity.

Defense lawyer Tariq Asad spoke to VOA shortly after the verdict was announced. He says the court acquitted the men of the more serious charges of planning war against Pakistan, directing others to launch attacks and attempting to cross the Afghan border illegally.

Asad says his legal team plans to file an appeal within the week and is prepared to take it all the way to the Pakistani Supreme Court.

"The charges have not been proved at the level of this anti-terrorism court," Asad said. "At the high court level, we believe that they will be acquitted. And if of course they are not acquitted, we will go up the highest level of the appeals court."

Two of the Americans are of Pakistani descent. The others are of Egyptian, Eritrean and Yemeni origin.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad tells VOA they respect the Pakistani judicial process.

Police detained the men in the country's Punjab province last December after their families in the Washington D.C. area reported them missing.

Pakistani authorities said they found e-mails and other evidence that showed the five Americans had contacted militants and were intent on committing a crime.

The Americans claim they are innocent and say they only wanted to do humanitarian work in Afghanistan. The men also said they were tortured by U.S. and Pakistan authorities while in jail – an allegation officials with both countries deny.

Prosecutors say they also will appeal for a longer sentence. They had been asking for life in prison.

International relations expert Ishtiaq Ahmad says with the frequency of global travel and the ease of communication on the Internet, it has never been easier for aspiring terrorists to have a long reach.

"Everything is linked now, you see, from terrorist financing to people physically traveling from one region, crossing thousands of miles and then coming and committing terrorism," said Ahmad.

Ahmad says it is that reason that countries need to coordinate their anti-terror efforts and laws. But he says that does not necessarily mean suspects have to be extradited to their home countries.

"I think [the] law must take its due course, wherever these people are captured and whatever their origins are," he added.

Earlier this week, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen pleaded guilty to a failed attempt to ignite a car bomb in New York City's Times Square last month.

U.S. authorities say the defendant, Faisal Shahzad, received explosives training from militants in Pakistan.

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