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Deputy prosecutor Rana Bakhtiar, centre, is surrounded after he came out to announce the verdict handed down to five American students being held at the Sargodha jail in Punjab province.
Deputy prosecutor Rana Bakhtiar, centre, is surrounded after he came out to announce the verdict handed down to five American students being held at the Sargodha jail in Punjab province.

Pakistan convicts Americans in terror case

A Pakistani court convicts five US men on terror charges and sentences each to at least 10 years in prison.

A Pakistani court today sentenced five Americans to 10 years in jail each after finding them guilty of waging war against the state and funding a terrorist group, lawyers said. The five, aged 19 to 25, had been on trial in a closed court in a prison in the eastern city of Sargodha since March. The judge found them guilty of two charges, but acquitted them of three others. In a mostly secret trial, each defendant was handed concurrent sentences of 10 and five years and fined 70,000 rupees (Dh3,000). Both the defence and the prosecution vowed to appeal. Rana Bakhtiar, deputy prosecutor general for the Punjab provincial government, said he would appeal for 20-year sentences. The Americans - of Egyptian, Eritrean, Pakistani and Yemeni descent - were arrested in December in Sargodha on charges of plotting a terrorist attack. Umar Farooq, Waqar Hussain, Rami Zamzam, Ahmad Abdullah Mini and Amman Hassan Yammer had faced a maximum punishment of life in prison. "For criminal conspiracy they were sentenced to 10 years in prison plus 50,000 rupees fine," the defence lawyer Hassan Katchela said. "For funding a banned terrorist organisation they were imprisoned for five years each plus 20,000 rupees fine."

Defence lawyers and the prosecution said the clause included "waging war against Pakistan". Pakistani officials have said the young men planned to travel to neighbouring Afghanistan and join up with Taliban-led militants fighting US and NATO troops. The defendants pleaded their innocence and said they had come to Pakistan to attend a wedding and wanted to travel onto Afghanistan to do humanitarian work. They accused the FBI and Pakistani police of torture, but the authorities have flatly denied any ill treatment.

Khalid Farooq, the Pakistani father of Farooq, spoke of his shock at the sentencing and vowed to go all the way with an appeal. "It is a matter of great disappointment. We were not expecting it," he told reporters 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." The sentencing came three days after the Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to an attempted car bombing in Times Square, warning a New York courtroom of more attacks on the United States until it leaves Muslim lands. Investigators claimed that the Sargodha five planned to travel to South Waziristan, a training ground for militants in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt and a region targeted by a major military operation last year. Although the Pakistani government is a close ally in the US war on al Qa'eda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the country is gripped by widespread anti-Americanism and many blame deteriorating security on the alliance. *AFP

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