Terror suspect in Conn. case faces 25 years
By MICHAEL P. MAYKO | Connecticut Post, Bridgeport, Conn. | Published: July 16, 2014
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The videos are real and graphic.
There's Russian Hell 2000, which features a captured, wounded Russian soldier stumbling and falling before being riddled with bullets by Muslim rebels in Chechnya.
The directives are terrifying.
There is one instructing Muslim parents to raise their youngsters by reading bedtime stories of jihad, practicing target shooting with them and playing military games rather than "largely useless sports ...You don't understand what those little ears will take in."
And the website is loaded with appeals.
They seek recruits, money in $20,000 increments, military gear and doctors ready to treat the wounded.
All this was contained on Azzam Publications and an Azzam.com web site managed by Babar Ahmad, a United Kingdom citizen. He is charged in Connecticut because the website ran off a server owned by OLM LLC in Trumbull.
OLM cooperated with authorities and is not accused of any wrongdoing.
Now the federal government wants Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall to sentence Ahmad, of Pakistani descent, to 25 years in prison for conspiring and providing material help to terrorists, particularly the Taliban in Afghanistan and Mujahedeen in Chechnya. The sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday.
A co-defendant, Syed Talha Ahsan, faces up to 15 years in prison for similar acts when he is sentenced Thursday.
Both pleaded guilty to federal charges in December. They were extradited from Britain in 2012 following years of legal challenges to avoid prosecution here.
A third co-defendant, Hassan Abu-Jihaad, formerly known as Paul R. Hall, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for providing material support to terrorists. Abu-Jihadd was a U.S. Navy signalman aboard the U.S.S. Benfold, a guided missile destroyer in a Persian Gulf battle group when he wired information on the group's movements, strength and vulnerability to the pair.
A December 2003 search of Ahmad's United Kingdom apartment uncovered evidence that he had an electronic document detailing the battle group's movement. The prosecution also claims Ahsan possessed, accessed and modified it.
An unidentified Connecticut resident emailed the website in June 2000 asking the best way to get a $2,000 donation to the jihadists in Chechnya.
A year earlier Ahmad allegedly spent $8,300 at a Long Island wholesale military supplier on 100 sets of military pants and jackets that he wanted shipped through the United Arab Emirates to Afghanistan, according to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Reynolds and Raymond Miller.
And in 1998, the prosecution further claimed Ahmad entered the United Kingdom with six global positioning devices, eight pieces of body armor and seven Kevlar helmets he bought in the U.S.
Reynolds spent much of Tuesday delivering a multi-media presentation showing videos, playing audio clips and displaying documents to convince Hall the pair was dangerous.
In a letter to his father, Ahsan claimed he participated in jihad activities, and was "ambushed, fired at with military mortars and drenched in the blood" of a dying comrade.
At one point, Reynolds told the judge: "We do have significant concerns about Mr. Ahmad going back and doing what he did before."
But U.S. Public Defender Terrance Ward accused the government of overstatement.
He charged the prosecution with "making leaps that are unsupported" when they attempted to connect Ahmad to ranking al-Qaida leaders, including the late Osama bin Laden.