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Central & South Asia
Pakistan jails American suspects
Five US citizens given 10-year sentences after contacting anti-government fighters.
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2010 21:31 GMT
The five men were arrested last December after
their families reported them missing [AFP]

A court in Pakistan has sentenced five American citizens to up to 10 years in prison after making contact with armed groups and plotting attacks in the country.

The men, all students in their 20s, were arrested in the central city of Sargodha, 190km south of Islamabad, the capital last December.

The charges carry 10- and five-year terms and are to be served concurrently, Rana Bakhtiar, the deputy prosecutor, said on Thursday.

A total fine of 70,000 rupees ($821) was also given to the five detainees.

"Both these sentences will begin concurrently and in practice they will spend 10 years in jail. We will appeal in the high court to enhance the sentence," Bakhtiar said.

The men can appeal the convictions.

"It was not a fit case for conviction," Hassan Dastghir, a defence lawyer, said.

"I am confident that we will win the case at appeals level."

Police claim

Pakistani police said that emails from the men showed that they had contacted fighters in Pakistan and were in turn scheduled to be used to carry out attacks in the country.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Zafar Jaspal, a Pakistani security analyst, said the verdict "is an exemplary punishment and exemplary timing, but at the same time there was a fair trial".

The five men said in court that they were trying to contact fellow Muslims in Afghanistan to give them medicine and financial assistance.

All five are from the Washington DC area and claimed in court that they had been framed and tortured by the Pakistani police and US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

They had been arrested days after arriving in Pakistan after their families reported them missing.

Political fallout

Two of the men are of Pakistani origin, with the others are of Egyptian, Yemeni and Eritrean origin.

Jaspal, the security analyst, said there has been no political fallout for Pakistan as a result of the convictions, he said.

"But things would have been very different if Pakistanis had been caught on US soil," he said.

"Pakistan would have been painted as a terror state as a whole."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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