In a surprise move, a Portland sanitation worker pleaded guilty Friday to providing money to a terrorist who died in a 2009 suicide bombing outside an office of Pakistan’s spy service.
The suicide bombing in Lahore killed more than 30 people.
A Portland federal grand jury indicted Reaz Khan just after Christmas 2012, accusing him of taking part in a conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Khan’s lawyers vigorously denied the allegations.
Less than two months ago, the American Civil Liberties Union joined the defense team and appeared ready to challenge the constitutionality of surveillance operations that helped U.S. government agents make their case against Khan.
It was expected that Khan’s legal team would target the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which allowed the government to electronically eavesdrop on Khan.
But in an abrupt turnabout, Khan’s primary lawyer, Amy Baggio, told the court that she had reached a plea deal with government prosecutors that would allow for a reduced sentence.
Khan, 51, a Pakistani-born naturalized U.S. citizen, admitted to Mosman that he was guilty of being an accessory after the fact in a conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists that resulted in death.
Speaking in a soft voice, Khan acknowledged that he had last seen suicide bomber Ali Jaleel at the turn into the 21st century. But they had shared emails in 2005 and 2006.
In the fall of 2008, Khan said, Jaleel emailed him in Oregon and said it was imperative he leave the Maldives to go to Pakistan. This begat a series of emails about Jaleel’s travel plans and his family.
Jaleel, a fellow Sunni Muslim, was killed in the May 27, 2009, bombing and small-arms attack at a compound in Lahore, near offices of police and Pakistan’s spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Khan also admitted to Mosman that he provided advice and financial assistance to Jaleel’s wives after the bombing.
In the highly structured plea deal, Khan is expected to receive a sentence of seven years and three months in federal prison. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years and a $125,000 fine.
The FBI had arrested Khan in March 2013, but the court allowed him to post bail — a rarity in Oregon’s federal judicial district — so that he could prepare for trial in the national security case.
Khan, a wastewater treatment operator on unpaid leave from his job, was accused of wiring money to Jaleel, part of an old pact to seek martyrdom in the name of Allah.
They were expected at trial to seize on a Jan. 14, 2006, email in which Jaleel reminds Khan about their shared promise to seek martyrdom in the name of Allah.
A line from the email appears to be Jaleel quoting Khan’s own words: “This world is of no use to us so let’s sacrifice ourself for the pleasure of Allah in his way???”
The government accuses Khan of making good on those words, funding Jaleel’s training as a terrorist in 2008.
Sentencing is scheduled June 8.
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