July 16th, 2014 | City

British citizens sentenced in New Haven for terrorist ties

After pleading guilty to a series of charges alleging support for and conspiracy with overseas terrorist groups, two British nationals entered New Haven Federal Court for a sentencing hearing on Wednesday morning.

Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan now face prison time in addition to their lengthy pre-trial detainment for supporting both the Taliban and the Chechen mujahideen remotely. The men conducted their efforts through Azzam Publications, a mainly-online media platform, to helped users channel funding, supplies and personnel to the groups, all while visibly promoting their collective mission. A Wednesday release issued by Department of Justice spokesman Tom Carson contained case details and evidence descriptions.

“Babar Ahmad provided material support unprecedented in scope to terrorists for over seven years,” federal attorney Deirdre Daly said in Carson’s release. “Let this be a warning to those that support terrorism, the Government will not rest until you are brought to justice.”

On Wednesday afternoon, United States District Judge Janet Hall decided upon a 150-month prison term for Ahmad, the head of the operation, just half the amount of time initially sought by the team of federal prosecutors. Hall did credit Ahmad, who was first arrested in the United Kingdom in 2004, for the time that he has already served in custody. Ahmad could thus potentially walk free in as few as 13 months, pending good behavior.

She also released Ahsan from custody, turning him over to United States Immigration officers for possible deportation.

In October 2012, authorities extradited the co-conspirators to Connecticut after finding that a Trumbull, Conn. company’s servers hosted the Azzam websites for a period of time. Eventually, the Elm City’s branch of the Federal Court assumed control of the case.

Over the course of the trial, prosecutors focused on a digital trail connecting the men to insurgent groups in the Middle East. Ahmad admitted that “‘the purpose of Azzam Publications [was] to ‘Incite the believers’ and also secondly to raise some money for the brothers,’” Carson added in the release.

One example cited by the prosecution was an article entitled “What You Can Do to Help the Taliban” found on Azzam’s websites in 2001. The article advised readers on how to raise and deliver large sums of money to the Taliban government through a connection in Pakistan. Carson’s release pointed to a number of other, similarly aligned articles recovered from the sites during the same period, but, more recently, they have been used to solicit military items for the Taliban, the defendants revealed.

Further details regarding Ahmad’s attempts to train in Afghanistan for a violent jihad also surfaced, but, in December, he and Ahsan each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of providing material support to terrorists.

Still, Ahmad has maintained that he does not support anti-American efforts. Shortly after his extradition he penned a column for The Guardian, protesting the decision to send the case to the United States and lamenting a number of missteps by law enforcement throughout his detainment. Ahmad’s lawyer insisted that his client was “horrified” by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, The Guardian also reported on Wednesday.

Teams from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service and Department of Homeland Security led the case’s investigative efforts.