Tom Hays, Associated Press
Friday 25 November 2005
Last Update 25 November 2005 12:00 am
NEW YORK, 25 November 2005 — A Pakistani man who said he told investigators “what I thought they wanted to hear” when he confessed to helping an Al-Qaeda operative sneak into the United States to carry out a chemical attack has been convicted of terrorism charges.
A federal jury deliberated for about five hours before finding Uzair Paracha, 25, guilty of providing material support to terrorists and of other related charges. He could face up to 75 years in prison.
Paracha, 25, testified earlier in the week that the FBI pressured him into confessing that he tried to help alleged Al-Qaeda member Majid Khan get fake travel documents.
After his detention in 2003, Paracha told agents that Khan had tried to recruit him to Al-Qaeda and made clear that he wanted to come to the United States as part of a plot to attack Americans.
Paracha told the agents he had no personal interest in Al-Qaeda but cooperated because Khan and others related to the terrorist network had promised to invest $200,000 in one of the family’s businesses.
Assistant US Attorney Karl Metzner told the jury Paracha wanted to help Khan and “did so knowing that a terrorist was coming here for one purpose: to kill Americans.” The government also alleged he knew Khan was planning a chemical attack against the United States.
Paracha grew up in Pakistan, but has lived off and on for many years in New York.
Though Paracha had no visible reaction to Wednesday’s verdict, lawyer Anthony Ricco said afterward his client “was hurt and disappointed.” Another defense attorney, Edward Wilford, said the FBI denied his client food and sleep during hours of questioning — “the ideal conditions to create a false confession.”
Paracha’s father, Saifullah Paracha, is being held as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has not been charged with a crime, but documents indicate he is suspected of laundering money for terrorists and associating with Al-Qaeda figures. He has repeatedly denied involvement in terrorism.
Khan is presumed to be in an overseas jail.
The guilty verdict against Paracha came a day after the Justice Department won another conviction in a terrorism case in Virginia, when an American Muslim student was found guilty of plotting with Al-Qaeda to assassinate President Bush.
That suspect, 24-year-old Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, also alleged that he gave a false confession. He said Saudi security officers whipped and tortured him after his arrest in June 2003, when he was enrolled at the Islamic University of Madinah.