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5 N.Va. men convicted on terrorism charges in Pakistan, given 10 years in prison

Five Northern Virginia men were sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Pakistani court on Thursday after being convicted on terrorism charges.

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Defense attorneys said several inconsistencies indicated that police had fabricated the e-mails, maps and confessions. Lawyer Hassan Katchela said that police told news media about the existence of the maps and e-mails several days before the dates on which prosecutors said they were seized and that the wording of all five men's statements -- allegedly dictated -- was identical.

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"The evidence that we produced in the court was not even read," Katchela said.

'Shocked' by verdicts

The men grew up in the Alexandria area and worshiped at the same small mosque in Fairfax. They said during the trial that they had traveled secretly to Pakistan for the wedding of one of the five and in hopes of helping the orphaned and homeless in neighboring Afghanistan. When they were arrested in December, after their families reported them missing around Thanksgiving, they ranged in age from 18 to 24.

Katchela said the men were "shocked" when the verdicts were announced in court. In addition to the prison sentences, they were each fined about $820.

"They remained silent," Katchela said, adding that he expected to meet with the men Friday and discuss an appeal, which he plans to submit to a higher court, in Lahore, within a week.

"We feel they'll have a better chance at a fair trial in Lahore, where a local court doesn't have to rule that its own local investigators fabricated evidence," said Ginsberg, the Alexandria lawyer.

Deputy prosecutor Rana Bakhtiar told reporters outside the Sargodha jail that the government will also appeal, probably seeking 20-year prison terms.

Families worried

As news of the convictions filtered out Thursday morning, Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, spoke by phone with the men's parents. "They are in a state of shock," Awad said.

In addition to the court proceedings being conducted in secret, Awad said, another major concern of the families is that the men alleged in court documents that their admissions about terrorist activities had been made under torture.

Reached by phone Thursday, Zamzam's mother, Amal Khalifa, weeping openly, said only: "I need help to talk to my son on the phone. I need to talk to him."

Chaudhry's father, Khalid Farooq Chaudhry, who was in Sargodha for the trial, said he was "disappointed" by the verdict.

"I don't know where is justice," the elder Chaudhry said.

Hussain is a special correspondent. Schulte reported from Washington. Staff writer Jerry Markon in Washington and correspondent Karin Brulliard in Kabul contributed to this report.


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