Lashkar-e-Taiba man sentenced again to 15 years in US

April 26th, 2008 - 11:15 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 26 (IANS) A former teacher at a Muslim school in Maryland has been again sentenced to 15 years in prison for providing support to a Pakistani terrorist group in their anti-India agenda in Jammu and Kashmir. Ali Asad Chandia, one of a dozen young US Muslim men convicted in 2006 as part of what prosecutors called a “Virginia jihad network” for providing military support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, was given the same sentence Friday despite a federal appeals court’s order to the trial judge to reconsider the original sentence.

The “Virginia jihad network” used paintball games to train for holy war around the globe. Chandia, who taught third grade at the al-Huda school in College Park, Maryland, did not participate in the paintball games but was acquainted with some of those accused of playing.

Specifically, Chandia was found guilty of acting as a driver and assistant to Lashkar leader Mohammed Ajmal Khan on his visits to the US in 2002 and 2003 and helping Khan ship 50,000 paintball pellets from the US to Pakistan.

At Friday’s hearing in Alexandria, US District Judge Claude Hilton said Chandia’s actions showed a clear intent to help Lashkar advance its terrorist agenda against India. He said the evidence was clear that Chandia, who grew up in Pakistan and whose father is a prominent attorney there, knew that Lashkar was a violent organisation that used terrorist tactics.

Chandia’s defence attorney, Marvin Miller, said he will again appeal the sentence, and that Hilton’s explanation did not address the appellate court’s fundamental concern - that Chandia did not engage in violent acts and is therefore ineligible for the terrorism enhancement.

Appearing in court, Chandia maintained his innocence and said he never supported violence. “What government was supposed to be intimidated by my actions?” Chandia asked the judge. “Do you think the government of India will feel intimidated by a few boxes of paintballs?”

The Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond earlier this year ordered a new sentencing hearing for Chandia, saying the judge needed to explain why he applied a rarely used “terrorism enhancement” that more than doubled Chandia’s prison time to 15 years.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Chandia would have been subject to six and a half years at most without the terrorism enhancement. Under the enhancement, Chandia could have received a sentence of 30 years or more, but Hilton said 15 years was appropriate under the circumstances.

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