DENVER (AP) — A Philadelphia man convicted in Colorado of providing support to a terrorist group will not serve additional time in prison, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, crediting the Uzbek native for more than six years in custody since his arrest.
A jury in May found Bakhtiyor Jumaev guilty of providing material support and attempting to provide material support to a terror group called the Islamic Jihad Union.
The organization is an extremist splinter group that opposes the government of Uzbekistan and has been blamed for attacks there and in Afghanistan.
Prosecutors said Jumaev, who was living in Philadelphia, gave $300 to another Uzbek man and intended the money to go to the group. The recipient, Jamshid Muhtorov, lived in Denver.
Both men were tried separately in federal court in Colorado.
The cases took years to get underway, complicated by classified evidence, witnesses and experts from around the globe and the need to translate recorded or written evidence in several languages.
Jumaev’s co-defendant also unsuccessfully challenged the use of evidence obtained through warrantless wiretap programs.
Prosecutors on Wednesday asked Judge John Kane to sentence Jumaev to 15 years in prison.
Prosecutor Gregory Holloway said Jumaev was on an “alarming trajectory” and may have taken other actions if he had not been arrested in March of 2012.
“At no point during the arc of this case does he pull back,” Holloway said. “And indeed, again, I view this as the beginning of radicalization.”
Kane, though, called the government’s request “absurd” in a written ruling. In determining a sentence, Kane said he wanted to convey that any level of support for terrorism is intolerable.
“I believe that message has been sent in this case,” Kane said. “Mr. Jumaev has already been subjected to significant punishment.”
Jumaev, 51, covered his eyes with one hand as he listened to an interpreter translate Kane’s decision.
Kane said he reviewed dozens of other federal cases with the same charges. He said additional prison time would give Jumaev a harsher sentence than other defendants have received for the same offense.
Kane said Jumaev was unlikely to ever be released in the U.S. because immigration authorities have begun proceedings to have him removed from the country. He will likely be detained by immigration authorities or deported to Uzbekistan, both “bleak” options, Kane said.
“His confinement is not over once you impose your sentence,” Jumaev’s attorney, David Barry Savitz, said during the hearing. “Once your sentence is imposed, Mr. Jumaev faces an indefinite future of confinement with immigration.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Carl Rusnok confirmed on Wednesday that the agency has an immigration detainer request for Jumaev. He said Jumaev will be transferred into immigration authorities’ custody when he is released.
Jumaev’s attorneys argued during the seven-week trial that he was only paying down a debt owed to Muhtorov.
Muhtorov was found guilty of three terror-related charges in June. His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 30.
The cases included the U.S. Justice Department’s first disclosure that it intended to use evidence against the men obtained through one of the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance programs.
Muhtorov’s attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the program. Kane ruled in 2015 that it did not violate Muhtorov’s rights.
Jumaev, speaking through an interpreter at the hearing, told Kane that he was innocent of the charges.
“I stand here in front of you, not as a criminal, but as an innocent man,” he said.
Kane briefly broke from his written order to object to Jumaev’s claim at the end of the hearing. He said jurors made their decision based on evidence.
“I have never sentenced anybody that I feel is not (guilty) and I’m not doing so today,” Kane said.
By KATHLEEN FOODY
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