Asharq Al-Awsat -Lawyers for the Islamic preacher, Ali al Tamimi, indicated on Wednesday their client intended to appeal against the ruling sentencing him to life imprisonment in the next ten days. Speaking to Asharq Al Awsat, a member of al Tamimi’s legal team said the ruling was “harsh”, as charges of violence and terrorism were not proven during the trial. Commentators believe the trial, the first in the United States to hand out a life sentence against individuals suspected of terrorism, might herald similar cases.
Al Tamimi’s trouble with the law began in 2003 when agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided his house in the city of Fairfax, in Virginia and seized 30 boxes of documents and cassettes. This search was part of a wider operation across the state, against what was then known as “the Virginia cell” when 11 young Muslim men, most of whom were US citizens, were accused of taking part in military training and preparing for jihad (holy struggle). At the time, the men were accused of taking part in several games of paintball.
Eighteen months after the raid, following several meetings between al Tamimi, his lawyers, and the FBI, the government accused the preacher of instigating attacks on the US and its allies, such as India, Russia, and Israel.
Records from the trial show al Tamimi told a group of young men, on 16th September, 2001, the time was right to join the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, adding that US heading for the Central Asian country were a legitimate target. The preacher is also thought to have said the extremist Pakistani group “Leshkar-e -Taiba” (Army of the Pure) was on the right path, warning the men, “What I am sharing with you should remain a secret.” According to a witness, the preacher gave directions to the group’s training camps in Pakistan, encouraging one men to lie about his destination and recommending another “cry like a baby” if caught.
According to government sources, on 15 October, 2001, after the start of theUS war on the Taliban and al Qaeda, al Tamimi said killing US soldiers in Afghanistan was lawful, later indicating that “Whoever dies fighting Americans is a martyr.”
On the 1st of February, the preacher, born in Washington DC in 1963 of Iraqi parents wrote in an email message to his followers, on the occasion of the Columbia shuttle accident, “My heart is pounding with happiness I want to share with you. The explosion of the space shuttle over the town of Palestine in the state of Texas is an indication of an upcoming US failure next to Palestine.” He added, “Amongst the dead is an ex- captain in the Israeli Air Force who had participating in bombing the Iraqi nuclear plant. The Israeli Prime Minister indicated his country’s expectations rested on this man’s shoulders. Let us, therefore, celebrate the hopes of the Jewish State have been dashed.” Al Tamimi was further accused of sending three of his pupils to Kashmir for three weeks where they visited a camp for “Leshkar-e –Taiba” and received military training.
Last September, the federal authorities had asked al Tamimi to choose between two options: enter into a plea bargain and be sentenced to 14 years behind bars or stand trial accused of a number of violations that carry a maximum life imprisonment if found guilty, which has been the case.