Five US men convicted of Pakistan 'terror plot'

From left: Waqir Hussain Khan, Ramys (Ramy) Zamzam, Umar Farooq, Ahmad Abdulminni, Aman Hasan Yamer The men said they wanted to go to Afghanistan for charity work

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Five Americans have each been sentenced to 10 years in jail by a court in Pakistan after being found guilty of terrorism charges, prosecutors say.

The five men - aged between 18 and 25 - were convicted of conspiring to commit terrorist attacks on Pakistani soil and of funding banned jihadist groups.

They were arrested in the north-eastern city of Sargodha in December.

The case is one of several involving alleged "home-grown" American Muslim militants linked to Pakistan.

CONVICTED MEN

  • Umar Farooq, 25
  • Waqar Hussain Khan, 22
  • Ahmed Abdulah Minni, 20
  • Aman Hassan Yemer, 18
  • Ramy Zamzam, 22

The men have been identified as Ramy Zamzam, of Egyptian descent, Waqar Khan and Umar Farooq of Pakistani descent, and Aman Hassan Yemer and Ahmed Minni, who are of Ethiopian descent.

None were known to law enforcement agencies before they disappeared in November from their homes in Alexandria, Virginia.

'Charity mission'

After the young men went missing one of their families found a farewell video message said to have shown scenes of war and calls for Muslims to be defended. This prompted their families to contact the US authorities.

Analysis

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan

The convictions will come as no great surprise to those following the case in Pakistan.

Anti-terrorism courts in Pakistan are usually sympathetic to the police, particularly as the country's anti-terrorism law gives more weight to circumstantial evidence. However, such convictions are usually overturned by higher courts in accordance with regular Pakistan law which brings out the deficiency in investigation.

The hearings can continue for years, long after pressure to get a sentence has passed. In recent times, several such high-profile terrorism verdicts have been overturned by superior courts. Therefore there is much hope yet for the Sargodha five, and their case is by no means over.

Later, when the families learned their sons were staying in Sargodha, at the house of a relative of one of the group, they gave the location to the FBI.

Prosecutors said the men were intending to travel to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban, and that they had also used e-mail and YouTube to contact an al-Qaeda operative called Sayfullah.

When they were arrested, they were in possession of maps of sensitive locations, suggesting attacks were being planned, prosecutors added.

The five men denied having any links to al-Qaeda and insisted they wanted to go to Afghanistan solely for charity work.

They also accused US FBI and Pakistani investigators of torturing them and trying to frame them. Officials have denied the accusations.

The judge found them guilty of two charges but acquitted them of three others.

He handed down two prison terms for each man - 10 years for criminal conspiracy and five for funding a banned terrorist organisation - which are to be served concurrently. They were also fined a total of $820.

A lawyer for the men, Hassan Katchela, said they would appeal.

"We are a bit surprised because we believed there was not a case for conviction," he told reporters. "We are confident and we are going to file appeals against these convictions in the high court."

Khalid Farooq, the Pakistani father of Umar Farooq, vowed to pursue an appeal as long as was necessary.

"It is a matter of great disappointment. We were not expecting it," he told reporters of the verdict outside the jail in Sargodha.

"We will go to every forum, from the high court to the international court. We will file an appeal in Lahore high court in seven days."

However, Deputy Prosecutor Rana Bakhtiar said he planned to seek longer sentences.

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