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New York Times - April 27, 2005

Muslim Cleric Found Guilty in the 'Virginia Jihad' Case

By James Dao

ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 26 - In the most significant case involving what prosecutors called the Virginia jihad network, an American-born Muslim cleric was convicted on Tuesday of inciting followers to wage war against the United States just days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

After deliberating for seven days, the jury convicted the cleric, Ali al-Timimi of Fairfax, Va., on all six counts in the indictment, including counseling others to wage war against the United States and use firearms and explosives in furtherance of violent crimes. Mr. Timimi, who will remain under house arrest until sentencing on July 13, faces a mandatory life sentence under federal guidelines.

Mr. Timimi, 41, was described by federal prosecutors as a rock star among radical Islamists and the spiritual leader for a group of young men who trained to fight abroad for Muslim causes, including defending the Taliban against American-led forces.

"By his treasonous criminal acts, he has proven himself to be a kingpin of hate against America and everything we stand for, especially our freedom," the United States attorney for eastern Virginia, Paul J. McNulty, said in a statement.

But Mr. Timimi's lawyers and supporters described him as an apolitical cancer researcher and part-time Koranic scholar who viewed himself as a bridge between his conservative Muslim sect and American society.

"We're obviously disappointed," said Edward MacMahon, Mr. Timimi's lawyer. "I'm going to do everything within the bounds of law to have this overturned."

Mr. Timimi is the 10th person convicted in the "Virginia jihad" case, in which a group of young men, several of them American-born converts, prepared themselves spiritually and physically for waging jihad in defense of Islam, prosecutors said, including by playing paintball in rural Virginia.

Prosecutors asserted that the training became far more serious than simply playing games.

Three men who pleaded guilty in exchange for shorter sentences testified against Mr. Timimi, saying he told them at a private dinner on Sept. 16, 2001, that it was their Muslim duty to fight for Islam overseas, including by defending the Taliban against American forces.

The defense argued that Mr. Timimi had simply counseled his followers to take their families abroad after Sept. 11 to protect them against an anti-Muslim backlash.

Mr. MacMahon also presented evidence that Mr. Timimi tried to stop two of the men from attending a training camp in Pakistan run by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group allied with Al Qaeda that is dedicated to ousting Indian forces from the disputed province of Kashmir.

Mr. MacMahon said he planned to file a petition to dismiss the verdict on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove its case and that Mr. Timimi's words were protected under the First Amendment….

Civil rights advocates and Muslim American leaders raised concerns that Mr. Timimi's conviction would chill free speech among American Muslims, even among people who abhor Mr. Timimi's views.

"There is a view many Muslims have when they come to America that you could not be arrested for something you say," said Imam Johari Abdul Malik, outreach director at Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church. "But now they have discovered they are not free to speak their minds. And if our opinions are out of vogue in the current climate, we feel we are all at risk."

Mr. Timimi was born in Washington, the child of Iraqi immigrants. He attended high school in Saudi Arabia.

But upon returning to the United States, he devoted much of his life to the study of science, receiving bachelor's degrees in biology and computer science and, later, a Ph.D. in computational biology - used in gene sequencing - from George Mason University.

A statement posted on a Web site run by Mr. Timimi's supporters compared him with persecuted Islamic scholars of the past. "As Allah said in the Koran: 'And they witnessed what they were doing against the believers. They had nothing against them, except that they believed in God, the Almighty, worthy of all praise!' " the statement said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/27/national/27paintball.html?

Washington Post – April 27, 2005

Jurors Convict Muslim Leader in Terrorism Case

By Jerry Markon

 A prominent Muslim spiritual leader from Fairfax County was convicted yesterday of inciting his followers to train overseas for violent jihad against the United States.

The jury in U.S. District Court in Alexandria decided that Ali Al-Timimi's words, coming shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, were enough to send him to prison for what prosecutors said will be a mandatory
life sentence.

Timimi, 41, who was born and raised in the Washington area and has lectured on Islam around the world, was convicted of inspiring a group of his Northern Virginia followers to attend terrorist training camps abroad and prepare to battle American troops. He was found guilty of all 10 charges against him, including soliciting others to levy war against the United States and contributing services to Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers.

The heart of the government's case against Timimi was a meeting he attended in Fairfax on Sept. 16, 2001 -- five days after the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Timimi told his followers that "the time had come for them to go abroad and join the mujahideen engaged in violent jihad in Afghanistan," according to court papers.

Many of them practiced for jihad by playing paintball in the Virginia countryside, and some left the United States to train at terrorist training camps, but none actually went to Afghanistan and fought against American
troops.

The conviction, after seven days of deliberations, reignited a debate that played out in the courtroom over whether Timimi was committing a crime with his often-incendiary rhetoric or was a Muslim scholar exercising his rights to free speech.

Timimi showed no visible reaction as the verdict was read yesterday morning. Prosecutors argued that Timimi, who has been free on bond, should be jailed until he is sentenced July 13. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, while acknowledging that under "normal circumstances" she would order Timimi into custody, said he could remain free with electronic monitoring. She cited the "second- and third-degree removed nature" of his crimes.

The case against Timimi culminated an investigation in which 11 Muslim men, all but one from the Washington area, were charged with participating in paramilitary training -- including playing paintball -- to prepare for "holy war" abroad. Timimi was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in that case, in which nine men were convicted in 2003 and 2004.

The Justice Department hailed Timimi's conviction and said the investigation had secured more successful prosecutions than any domestic terrorism case since Sept. 11.

"By his treasonous criminal acts, [Timimi] has proven himself to be a kingpin of hate against America and everything we stand for, especially our freedom," said U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty.

Edward B. MacMahon Jr., an attorney for Timimi, said "obviously, we are disappointed with the jury's verdict." He vowed to file motions asking Brinkema to set aside the decision.

Timimi was accused of approving a plan for group members to prepare for jihad by obtaining military training from Lashkar-i-Taiba, an organization trying to drive India from the disputed region of Kashmir. The U.S.
government has labeled Lashkar a terrorist organization. Several of the men then went to a Lashkar camp, court records show.

Several of the defendants from the earlier case testified against Timimi.

In closing arguments last week, prosecutors argued that Timimi's words were dangerous because they were intended to cause violent acts. "When Tony Soprano says go whack some guy, that's not protected speech,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg.

Defense attorneys argued that the case was about freedom of speech and religion. "All this man has done is exercise the rights all American citizens have," MacMahon said in court. "He has uttered words, folks, mere
words."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/26/AR2005042600490.html

MAS

MAS Freedom Executive Director's open letter
 on Dr. Ali Al-Timimi verdict report in the Washington Post

On April 26, 2005, I was interviewed by Timothy Dryer of the Washington Post concerning the verdict in Dr. Ali Timimi's case.

Since the Post only credits a small edited excerpt of my interview, I thought it might be more beneficial for clarity and intent to provide my full unedited statement. The following was my full statement to the Post:

The verdict in Dr. Al-Timimi's case is a sad day for American Muslims and the U.S. Constitution. It bodes ill for the Bill of Rights, and especially the First Amendment (Freedom of Speech). I agreed with many of America's lawyers and constitutional scholars that Dr. Al-Timimi's speech is constitutionally protected, even if others find it repugnant and inflammatory.

Since free speech is supposed to be guaranteed in this country, the issue of speech is always juxtaposed against the right to harm others. You have free speech, but you can't shout 'fire' in a crowed theater. I don't believe that was Dr. Al-Timimi's intent, or that his words were intended to have people go and take his words and translate them into killing other human beings, particularly Americans. However, it appears that the jury didn't understand that, and thought that Dr. Al-Timimi shouted 'fire'.

It's rather ironic that a speech similar to Dr. Al-Timimi's was not viewed by our government as criminal during the period when the Russians occupied Afghanistan. Clearly, the bar for free speech has been raised since the tragic events of 9/11, and this backlash is adversely affecting American Muslims.

However, we expect vindications of Dr. Al-Timimi upon appeal. Additionally, American Muslims must not let this and other similar decisions make them afraid to speak out or resist injustice. We must resist any and all Efforts to relegate out status in this country to second-class citizenship.

Free speech is not just a constitutional right; it is a God-given right.

Mahdi Bray
Executive Director
MAS Freedom Foundation
April 27, 2005

http://www.masnet.org/takeaction.asp?id=2380