Pakistan Charges 5 Americans With Terrorism

Five Americans allegedly traveled from DC to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

ByABC News
March 17, 2010, 3:59 PM

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan March 17, 2010— -- Five young Americans were charged with terrorism in Pakistan today, almost four months after police say they tried to join terrorist groups and travel into Afghanistan to attack American troops.

A Pakistani court charged the Virginia natives with five counts, including conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks in Pakistan, planning to commit acts of degradation against the United States and Afghanistan, and directing each other to commit terrorist acts. The charge of intent to commit terrorist acts carries mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

They pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

They are the highest profile overseas case of more than a dozen recently arrested terrorists or would-be terrorists who have American citizenship, a trend that U.S. officials admit reflects a new threat of Islamic extremism created within the United States.

The five men traveled from the Washington, D.C. area to Pakistan last fall after Pakistani police say they were contacted by a terrorist recruiter in Karachi on YouTube. Once they arrived, they failed to join multiple terrorist groups in Hyderabad and Lahore, Pakistan, before being arrested in the small town of Sargodha, where the hearing was held today.

The Americans' defense lawyers say they were planning to travel to Afghanistan to help Muslims affected by the war and had no intent to commit terrorism.

Hassan Dastagir Katchela, who defended the men in court today, accused police of fabricating evidence, citing one piece of communication between the men and a man named Saifullah, who police say recruited them via YouTube and then traded notes in a drafts e-mail folder inside a Yahoo account.

One message between Saifullah and the men "was written two days after the arrest," Katchela told ABC News.

He also accused police of "pressuring" the five men, who range in age from 19 to 25. He repeated an accusation that police had tortured the men, but said their treatment has dramatically improved.

He said the oldest suspect, Umar Farooq, has accused the jail superintendent of choking him. After that accusation, Katchela said, the treatment improved.