NEW YORK – A martial arts expert pleaded guilty Wednesday to pledging to help al-Qaida by teaching his fighting skills, the third of four defendants and the second this week to admit guilt in the case.
The deal means Tarik Shah, who also is a jazz musician, faces 15 years in prison instead of the 30 years he could have faced if convicted at trial.
Shah, 44, pleaded guilty to conspiring from October 2003 through May 2005 to provide martial arts and hand-to-hand combat with weapons training to fighters knowing that al-Qaida was engaged in terrorism.
“I agreed with others to provide material support to al-Qaida in the form of martial arts training, which I knew was wrong,” he told U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein.
A prosecutor asked Shah to say he knew that al-Qaida was a terrorist group, but Shah, after a pause of several minutes to consult with his lawyer, agreed only that he knew that the U.S. had designated al-Qaida a terrorist organization.
On Monday, Shah’s co-defendant Mahmud Faruq Brent Al Mutazzim, of Gwynn Oak, Md., a Washington cab driver, pleaded guilty to providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Taiba organization, which the U.S. designated a terrorist organization in 2001.
Another co-defendant, New York bookstore owner Abdulrahman Farhane, pleaded guilty in November and is to be sentenced next week.
Dr. Rafiq Abdus Sabir of Boca Raton, Fla., is the only defendant who has not pleaded guilty. He is to go to trial April 24 on charges of agreeing to treat holy warriors in Saudi Arabia.
Sabir, educated in the Ivy League, has argued through his lawyers that it was unconstitutional to prosecute a doctor for providing medical services.
More on Brent: “Paramedic pleads guilty to attending Pakistani terror camp,” by Alan Feuer for the International Herald Tribune:
According to the complaint against Brent, he met with Shah in Columbia, Maryland, in 2005, and described how difficult it had been to reach the camp in Pakistan. Brent nonetheless told Shah, the complaint said, that the experience had been “one of the better
decisions of my life” and that he hoped that “Allah would bless him” for his efforts.
Passport records show that Brent was in Pakistan from February to June 2002, prosecutors say.
The camp was operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda, whose primary goal was to fight Indian forces in the disputed province of Kashmir. The group was declared a foreign terrorist organization by the United States in December
The plea hearing on Monday in federal district court in Manhattan was attended by nearly 30 of Brent’s relatives, who called out “God is great!” in Arabic and “We love you, Mahmud!” when he was brought into the room.
After the hearing, Brent’s sister Attah Attulah questioned the validity of the charges that her brother faced.
“What does it mean, terrorism?” Attulah asked rhetorically. “Who defines it? You step on an ant today and that is terrorism.”
Well, you’re onto something there; “terrorism” is awfully vague. That’s why we call it what it is — jihad.