Thursday, February 20, 2014

Uzair Paracha

I am not a lawyer, but if I were to give one piece of advice to terrorism defendants, it would be to take a plea deal if it is offered.

In November 2005 Uzair Paracha was prosecuted for material support for terrorism, among other charges.

Majid Khan was a US resident who returned to Pakistan in 2002 to visit his wife without giving required notice to the American Immigration Department. At Uzair’s trial, prosecutors argued that Uzair posed as Khan in order to give immigration authorities the impression that Khan had not left the U.S. Prosecutors said that Uzair posed as Khan while on the phone with immigration authorities, used Khan’s bank cards, and also agreed to obtain travel documents for Khan and bring them back to Pakistan.

Prosecutors argued that if Khan had been able to return to the United States, he would have attempted to enact a terrorist plot to blow up gas stations in the US.

At the trial both the prosecution and defense agreed that Majid Khan was a member of Al Qaeda. Uzair said that at the time he made the call, he did not know that Khan was a member of Al Qaeda. Prosecutors argued that he did.

Among Uzair’s belongings, US investigators found Khan’s bank card, social security card, driver’s license, and a handwritten list of instructions from Khan directing Paracha on how to pose as Khan when talking to the Immigration department. US investigators also found that Uzair had a key to the post office box where Khan’s immigration documents were to be sent.

Prosecutors said that Uzair admitted to the FBI that he had known about Khan’s terrorist connections when he made the call. One of Uzair’s Defense attorneys, Edward Wilford, said the FBI had denied Paracha food and sleep and strip searched him during endless hours of questioning, “the ideal conditions to create a false confession.''

Uzair’s defense attorneys were not allowed to question Majid Khan or Ammar al-Baluchi, another accused Al Qaeda member, even though both were in CIA custody at the time. A statement created from US interrogations of the two men was provided to the defense. The statement said that the two members had said that, “neither Paracha nor his father, knowingly aided al-Qaeda.”

Uzair was offered a 22 month plea deal that amounted to little more than the prison time he had already served. Uzair turned down the plea deal and insisted on his innocence.

In November 2005 Uzair was convicted of material support for terrorism, conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism, providing funds, goods, or services to Al Qaeda, conspiracy to provide funds, goods, or services to Al Qaeda, and identification documents fraud committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism.

In July 2006 Uzair was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

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