Judge challenges prosecutors on terror case claim

July 11, 2014

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A federal judge preparing to sentence a British citizen for supporting terrorists in Afghanistan challenged U.S. prosecutors Friday on their claim that the defendant supported al-Qaida.

Babar Ahmad’s support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan didn’t necessarily mean he supported al-Qaida, Judge Janet Hall said during a hearing in New Haven. She cited the testimony of a government cooperating witness who denied Ahmad supported al-Qaida.

Prosecutor Stephen Reynolds said Ahmad was not a member of al-Qaida but became sympathetic to the terrorist group and sent people to its training camps.

Ahmad and a co-defendant, Syed Talha Ahsan, pleaded guilty in December to supporting terrorists through websites that sought to raise cash, recruit fighters and solicit items such as gas masks for the Taliban.

The two men, who were extradited from Britain in 2012, faced charges in Connecticut because authorities said they used an Internet service provider in the state to run one of the websites.

The cooperating witness said Ahmad urged him to try to meet al-Qaida’s then-leader, Osama bin Laden, prosecutors said. That witness testified in a recent deposition that while he and Ahmad were in Afghanistan in January 2001, the witness saw bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders, though Ahmad denied going to Afghanistan, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they have not claimed Ahmad or Ahsan were involved in any operational terrorist plots or attacks.