American Muslims deny terrorism charges in Pakistan
- American Muslims deny all terrorism charges in Pakistan
FIVE Americans detained in Pakistan denied yesterday they planned to carry out attacks, as a court granted police two weeks to prepare terrorism charges against them.
The young Muslim men from the Washington, DC, area were arrested in early December in the eastern Pakistani city of Sargodha.
The case has spurred fears that Westerners are traveling to Pakistan to join militant groups. Pakistani police plan to seek life sentences for the men under anti-terrorism laws.
The men, aged 19 to 25, denied they had ties with al-Qaida or other militant groups during a court appearance yesterday in Sargodha, said their attorney, Ameer Abdullah Rokri.
"They said that they only intended to travel to Afghanistan to help their Muslim brothers who are in trouble, who are bleeding and who are being victimized by Western forces," said Rokri.
Rokri did not say whether the men planned to fight coalition troops in Afghanistan or simply provide humanitarian assistance. But one of the men indicated they had planned to wage holy war.
"We are not terrorists," Ramy Zamzam told reporters as he entered the courtroom. "We are jihadists, and jihad is not terrorism."
The court remanded the men to prison for 14 days to give police time to prepare their case, said Rokri.
"We have told the court that police have completed their investigations and have enough evidence against the five suspects to try them under anti-terrorism laws," said police officer Matiullah Shahani.
Police have not said what the group's intended target was, but authorities say the men had a map of Chashma Barrage a complex near nuclear power facilities that includes a water reservoir and other structures. It is in the populous province of Punjab, about 200 kilometers southwest of the capital, Islamabad.
The court ordered the release of one of the suspects' fathers, Khalid Farooq, because of a lack of evidence that he had committed any crime, said police officer Tahir Shirazai.
It was unclear if Farooq, also a United States citizen, was still in custody since authorities said they had released him more than two weeks ago.
Pakistani police and government officials have made a series of seemingly contradictory allegations about the men's intentions, while US officials have been far more cautious.
The US is also looking at charging the men Umar Farooq, Waqar Khan, Ahmed Minni, Aman Hassan Yemer and Ramy Zamzam.
The men are expected to eventually be deported back to the US.
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