Pakistani court jails US students on terrorism charges

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SARGODHA Pakistan — Five American students were yesterday sentenced to 10 years in jail for contacting militants online and plotting attacks by a court in Pakistan, fighting its own battle with Islamist radicals.
The students, in their 20s, were detained in December in Pakistan’s central city of Sargodha.
Deputy prosecutor Rana Bakhtiar said the men were convicted on two counts each, with one carrying a 10-year sentence and the other carrying five years, to be served concurrently. They were also fined a total of 70 000 rupees ($821).
“Both these sentences will begin concurrently and in practice they will spend 10 years in jail. We will appeal in the high court to enhance the sentence,” Bakhtiar said.
Waqar Hussain Khan, Ahmed Minni, Ramy Zamzam, Aman Yemer and Umar Farooq were each charged with five counts of conspiracy, raising funds for terrorist acts, planning war against Pakistan, directing others to launch attacks and trying to cross the Afghan border illegally.
Deputy prosecutor Bakhtiar said the court issued the 10-year sentences for conspiracy and five years for raising funds. The other charges were dropped.
The sentencing took place amid high security and journalists were not allowed inside the courtroom. Lawyers from both sides announced the sentences outside the jail.
The five men told the court earlier that they only wanted to provide fellow Muslim brothers in Afghanistan with medicine and financial help, and accused the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Pakistani police of torturing them and trying to frame them.
Hassan Katchela, a defence lawyer for the group, said the sentences would be appealed.
“We are a bit surprised because we believed it was not a case for conviction,” he said.
Two of the five are of Pakistani origin. The others are from Egyptian, Yemeni and Eritrean origins. The students were arrested days after arriving in Pakistan last year.
Pakistani police said emails showed they contacted militants, who had planned to use them for attacks in Pakistan. —Reuters