Five young Americans accused of plotting terrorist acts with Pakistani militants they had met on the internet were each sentenced to 10 years in jail by a Pakistani court today.
The men, all in their 20s, come from Alexandria, Virginia, and were arrested in the Punjabi city of Sargodha in December after their families reported them missing.
Prosecutors alleged they had found extremist groups from the US using Facebook and YouTube with the intention of travelling to Pakistan and crossing into Afghanistan to fight western soldiers.
A judge convicted each defendant on charges carrying sentences of five and 10 years, to be served concurrently, and imposed fines totalling 70,000 rupees (£550). Their lawyer said they would appeal.
The case is one of several involving “homegrown” American militants but the only one to be tried in a Pakistani court. Journalists and members of the public were barred from the trial, which was heard by a single judge under heavy security in a special anti-terrorism court.
Aged between 19 and 25, the men are all Muslims from middle-class immigrant American families. One, Ramy Zamzam, is of Egyptian descent and was a dental student at Washington’s Howard University. Two others, Umer Farooq and Waqar Hussain, are of Pakistani origin, while Ahmed Minni and Aman Hassan Yemer come from Eritrea and Yemen.
Pakistani police alleged the men had contacted Taliban-linked extremists with the intention of attacking the Chashma Barrage, a hydro-electricity station near sensitive nuclear facilities. They also accused them of seeking to travel to Afghanistan. One allegedly left a farewell video in the US that featured war footage and said Muslims must be defended.
The Americans said they had gone to Sargodha for a wedding, and were on their way to Afghanistan to provide humanitarian assistance to fellow Muslims. They accused Pakistani police of fabricating evidence, including emails, in an effort to frame them.