- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

A third-grade teacher at a Muslim school in Maryland traveled to Pakistan shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, trained with a terrorist group there and later served as chauffeur for one of that group’s leaders during his U.S. travels, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys made their closing arguments yesterday in the trial of Ali Asad Chandia, 29, who is charged with providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group that supports Muslim control of the disputed Kashmir territory on the India-Pakistan border. The jury began its deliberations yesterday afternoon.

The U.S. government declared Lashkar a terrorist group in December 2001.

Prosecutors have said Lashkar served as a potential gateway for Americans and others who wanted to join the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan in its fight against U.S. troops in late 2001.

The charges against Mr. Chandia stem from a government investigation of what prosecutors called a “Virginia jihad network,” a group of young Muslim men who used paint-ball games in 2000 and 2001 as paramilitary training for holy war around the globe.

Ten persons have been convicted in that investigation, including the group’s spiritual leader, Ali al-Timimi, who was sentenced to life in prison for soliciting treason and urging group members to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Prosecutors do not say that Mr. Chandia intended to take up arms against U.S. troops, but they do say he received jihad training at a Lashkar camp in late 2001.

Then, after returning to the United States in 2002, they say he helped Lashkar by assisting one of its officers, Mohammed Ajmal Khan, in his U.S. travels.

Specifically, Mr. Chandia served as a driver for Khan and picked him up at various airports. He also helped Khan obtain and ship equipment from the United States to Pakistan, including a remote-controlled aircraft and 50,000 paint balls, according to the government.

Prosecutor John Gibbs said the defense sought to portray Khan as an eccentric, largely innocuous character.

“He is not cute. He is a terrorist,” Mr. Gibbs said of Khan, who was convicted in Great Britain of supporting Lashkar and sentenced earlier this year to nine years in prison.

Defense lawyer Marvin Miller said prosecutors had no evidence that Mr. Chandia attended a Lashkar camp, only testimony from an eyewitness who saw Mr. Chandia at a Lashkar office in Lahore.

Mr. Miller said Mr. Chandia traveled to Pakistan to help arrange his brother’s wedding there in January 2002.

As for the assistance Mr. Chandia lent to Khan, Mr. Miller argued that Mr. Chandia didn’t know of Khan’s connections to Lashkar.

Mr. Chandia is on leave from a teaching job the al-Huda school in College Park.

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