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Terror suspects plan to change pleas


NEW HAVEN (AP) — Two men extradited from Britain last year are expected to change their pleas on charges they supported terrorists in Afghanistan and Chechnya by operating websites to raise cash, recruit fighters and solicit items such as gas masks.

Babar Ahmad and Syed Talha Ahsan are scheduled to enter new pleas Tuesday in federal court in New Haven to charges of providing support to terrorists and conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, court records show. They previously pleaded not guilty.

Telephone and email messages for their attorneys Thursday were not immediately returned.

Ahmad faces up to 30 years in prison and Ashan faces up to 15.

The men, who are detained while they await trial in Connecticut, were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kill persons in a foreign country. Ahmad, who was held without trial for eight years in a British prison, also was charged with money laundering.

The men are accused of operating websites under the name of Azzam Publications, which authorities say provided support to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime, Chechen rebels and associated terrorist groups. The men provided money, military items, communications equipment, training, safe houses, personnel, transportation, false documentation and identification and other supplies, authorities have said.

The men used the Internet to promote and raise money for violent jihad, recruit terrorists and solicit items such as gas masks, prosecutors said. The websites provided instructions to help people transport money from the United States to Pakistan, where it would be delivered to the Taliban, authorities said.

Ahmad and Ahsan recruited and arranged for individuals to travel to Afghanistan to train for violent jihad, prosecutors said.

Ahmad made efforts to secure GPS devices, Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, ballistic vests and camouflage uniforms, prosecutors said.

Both men also possessed a classified document discussing a U.S. Navy battle group’s movements and vulnerability to attack, authorities said.

A former Navy sailor, Hassan Abu-Jihaad, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2009 for leaking the details about the battle group to the website. The group was never attacked.

The two men faced trial in Connecticut, where an Internet service provider was allegedly used to run one of the websites.

Ahmad’s case has raised concerns among legal experts and human rights advocates. Some lawyers and lawmakers have expressed concerns because Britain agreed to extradite him even though his alleged crimes were committed in Britain and British courts declined to prosecute him for lack of evidence.

In an interview after the BBC won a legal battle to speak with him, Ahmad insisted he did not condone terrorism and urged authorities to put him on trial in the U.K. Ahmad acknowledged he had visited Bosnia several times during the 1990s and had been involved in the conflict there.



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