Five Virginia Men Convicted on Terrorism Charges By Pakistani Court

A Pakistani court has found five American men guilty of terrorism charges and sentenced them to 10 years in prison.

The men, who grew up together in the Alexandria, Virginia area and worshipped at the same mosque in Fairfax, say that they were on a humanitarian mission. During their trial, they said that they had traveled secretly to Pakistan in order to help orphans and homeless people in the neighboring nation of Afghanistan.

Umar Chaudhry, Ramy Zamzam, Ahmad A. Minni, Waqar Khan and Aman Hassan Yemer—who range in age from 19 to 25—were arrested at the home of an activist with ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, the terrorist organization that is widely believed to have been responsible for the abduction and murder of Daniel Pearl, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, in 2002. The men had also traveled to Lahore to met with the charity wing of a group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is supected in the 2008 bombings in Mumbai, India.

A week prior to their arrest, the men’s families had reported them as missing. One had left behind a video, later described by a Muslim leader as a farewell statement, which showed footage of war, quoted verses from the Koran and cited conflicts between the Western world and the Muslim world.

Among the evidence entered in the trial were email records, maps the men had been carrying, cellphone records and statements from witnesses, all of which prosecutors said proved that the men were planning terrorist attacks. Defense attorneys for the five, however, said that emails submitted to the court could have been falsified.

Each of the men were convicted of criminal conspiracy and funding a banned terrorist organization. The charges carry respective sentences of 10 and five years, but the judge ordered that the terms be served concurrently.

They were also fined 70,000 Pakistani rupees, or about $820 USD.

The FBI is conducting its own investigation into the men’s activities, and if it uncovers evidence of terrorist plots, the men may face charges in a U.S. court.

An attorney for the men says that he plans to appeal the court’s decision, especially in light of the fact that the men have alleged in court documents that they were tortured by Pakistani authorities, who wanted them to confess to terrorist activities.

The prosecution says that it, too, will appeal—in order to ask for a 20-year sentence for the men.

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