The Successful Prosecution of a Far-Reaching U.S. Indictment
4 MINS READApr 27, 2005 | 22:47 GMT
A U.S. district court in Alexandria, Va., on April 26 convicted Islamist ideologue Ali al-Timimi on 10 felony charges stemming from his efforts to encourage others to bear arms against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Al-Timimi, the primary lecturer at the Dar al-Arqam Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., urged his followers in late 2001 to travel to Afghanistan and defend the Taliban regime against the impending U.S. invasion. His conviction on a September 2004 indictment has proven that inspiring others to take part in militant activities can be prosecuted successfully. According to the indictment, al-Timimi urged at least four of the 11 members of the Virginia Jihad Network (VJN) to take up arms against the United States and its allies. In doing so, al-Timimi apparently arranged for some VJN members to travel to the Pakistani section of Kashmir to train with the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group. During their training, some of the men fired assault rifles — hence the firearms charges. No VJN member actually fought anywhere, but the LeT has been connected to other Islamist militant groups, which would explain a charge against al-Timimi for attempting to contribute services to the Taliban. Rather than organize militant activity, al-Timimi provided the intellectual impetus to others to take action against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The conviction is an example of the post-Sept. 11 shift in the United States toward more aggressive action against those who provide support of any kind to terrorist or militant organizations. In comparison, the United Kingdom still maintains a rather lax legal attitude toward those who support terrorist activities. London recently tightened some laws that deal with aiding terrorist groups, but a major law that would have broadened police powers to detain suspected terrorists was voted down in February. Another example of the U.S. shift is the case involving Lynne F. Stewart, the attorney for blind cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman who was convicted in February 2004 for providing material aid to terrorism for facilitating communication between the sheikh and his followers outside of prison and militants in Egypt. Stewart allegedly used her privilege as Rahman's lawyer to bring one of his followers, Mohamed Yousry, along with her to meetings with the sheikh at his Minnesota prison. Rahman would pass instructions to his followers through Yousry and Ahmed Abdel Sattar. The two co-defendants in Stewart's trial also were convicted on various charges. Al-Timimi was born and raised in the United States, as were a number of his followers. Among them were Randall Royer and Donald Surratt, who pleaded guilty along with others in March 2004 to terrorism-related charges for training at the LeT camp to fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Both were converts to Islam, and Surratt was a former U.S. Marine. In another case, U.S.-born Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a 23-year-old from Falls Church, was arrested in Saudi Arabia and accused of being an al Qaeda member. He also was indicted in federal court for plotting to assassinate U.S. President George W. Bush. As U.S. citizens, they all were subject to anti-sedition and treason laws. According to a 2004 survey conducted by the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding, 8 percent of the 6 million to 7 million American Muslims identify with any kind of Wahhabist causes. Of those who do, an even smaller minority support jihadist causes. Of course, as the Royer and Surratt cases have shown, an Islamic upbringing is not a prerequisite for supporting — or taking part — in jihadist causes. Those two cases — and especially the al-Timimi and Stewart cases — have shown however, that the U.S. legal system is now ready and willing to come down hard against those who never commit acts of aggression themselves, but whose speech or actions contribute to terrorism.