U.S. Lauds Pakistani's Terrorism Conviction
Saturday, November 26, 2005
NEW YORK, Nov. 25 -- The federal government hailed the conviction of a Pakistani-born businessman on charges that he conspired to help an al Qaeda operative who sought to carry out a terrorist attack in Maryland.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales applauded the verdict in the federal case against Uzair Paracha as "an important step as we seek to cut off the lifeline of support to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, here and abroad."
On Wednesday, a federal court jury here found Paracha, 25, guilty of five counts of conspiracy, providing material and financial support to al Qaeda. He faces up to 75 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for March 3.
Prosecutors said Paracha posed as Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident, to help Khan get immigration documents to sneak into the United States. According to government documents, Khan planned a series of bombings at gasoline stations. Paracha also agreed to manage $200,000 in al Qaeda funds, the documents said.
The government's case centered on Paracha's confession to FBI agents in which he stated that his father, Saifullah Paracha, had disclosed Khan's terrorist links. The elder Paracha is in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The father later recanted, saying he told the agents "what I thought they wanted to hear."
The defense had hinged its case on unsealed statements made by Khan and another operative, Ammar Baluchi, that Paracha did not know about their ties to al Qaeda. In an unprecedented move, U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein let defense attorneys present statements from alleged al Qaeda operatives to the jury.
"The fact that these statements were exculpatory should have gone a long way to exonerating Mr. Paracha," said defense attorney Edward D. Wilford. The lawyer said of the statements, "People might have looked at them as from members of al Qaeda and not of people to be believed."