A federal jury yesterday convicted the last man charged as a member of the “Virginia jihad network,” deciding that Ali Asad Chandia aided a terrorist group that is fighting the government of India.
The jury in U.S. District Court in Alexandria found Chandia, 29, guilty of three counts of providing material support to Lashkar-i-Taiba or conspiring to do so. Although jurors acquitted him of a fourth count of supporting terrorists, the College Park man faces up to 45 years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 18.
Prosecutors said Chandia trained at a Lashkar camp in Pakistan and helped the group acquire paintballs and other equipment with potential military applications when he returned to the United States. Lashkar, which is battling to end Indian control over much of Kashmir, is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. government.
The verdict brings to 11 the number of Muslim men convicted in the investigation of what prosecutors called a network dedicated to preparing for holy war against U.S. troops. Their training included playing paintball in the Virginia countryside, and a number of the defendants attended Lashkar camps overseas. Prosecutors said Chandia is a former personal assistant to Ali al-Timimi, the group’s spiritual leader, who is serving a life prison term….
The local Muslim community has criticized the investigation as overzealous and the prison terms of those convicted as excessive. Muslims flocked to the courthouse to show support for Chandia, a third-grade teacher at a Muslim school in Maryland. About 100 supporters attended closing arguments Monday.
“We see today’s verdict as a tragedy,” said Lynn Eppard, a spokeswoman for the Ali Asad Support Committee, a group that raised money for Chandia’s defense and posted summaries of trial testimony on the Internet. “These are troubling times not just for Muslims but for the entire country. . . . Millions of dollars are being spent under the guise of protecting us all, in this instance from a third-grade school teacher who was never proven to have had ill feelings or taken any action against any U.S. citizen.”
Why, Ms. Eppard, you’re going to make me weep — thinking about all those dead infidels that would have resulted from Chandia having been able to carry out his plans.