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Muslim lecturer indicted in terror case

From Kevin Bohn

September 11 attacks
Kashmir and Jammu (India)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Muslim lecturer, Ali al-Timimi, was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday, on charges including counseling people to engage in a conspiracy to levy war against the United States, to aid the Taliban and to use firearms in violent crimes.

The United States alleges al-Timimi, who lectured at a prominent Northern Virginia mosque until the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, told followers attending a meeting that Islamic history justifies attacks on civilians, that those fighting Americans in Afghanistan would die as martyrs and how to reach a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

"We are going to deny all the charges," al-Timimi's attorney, James Vann, told CNN.

"He has a record of lectures going back years and years, 15 to 20 years preaching non-violence and cooperation between the Muslim world and America."

The indictment is part of a government case in which 11 men were charged last year as part of a "Virginia jihad network." The 11 faced accusations of helping the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and using paintball games as a way to train for possible terrorist activity. Nine of the men either pleaded guilty or were convicted. Al-Timimi was not charged in the indictment.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, has fought to gain independence for Kashmir. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the disputed region, which is divided by the "Line of Control."

The indictment alleges al-Timimi helped at least five of those defendants to levy war against the United States, supply services to the Taliban and take part in military expeditions against U.S. allies.

The indictment states that al-Timimi told seven of those defendants at a September 16, 2001, meeting, "The time had come for them to go abroad to join the mujahedeen engaged in violent jihad in Afghanistan."

It also charges al-Timimi told them that "American troops likely to arrive in Afghanistan would be legitimate targets of the violent jihad in which his listeners had a duty to engage."

Prosecutors allege the lecturer advised some of the men how to reach undetected a terror training camp run by Laskhar-e-Taiba and al-Timimi said the meeting must be kept secret.

The indictment alleges that between September and October of 2001, four of the men who had attended al-Timimi's meeting went to Pakistan to train at the camp.

"While bodies were still being pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and while America was mourning the loss of over 3,000 people, the defendant counseled young men to bear arms against the United States. Today's charges are a major step forward in holding this lecturer accountable for his dangerous actions against America," U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty stated in a news release.

Concerning the meeting listed in the indictment, al-Timimi's attorney said his client was invited to a dinner where he talked about the problems facing Muslims living in the United States in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

"The extent of it [was], if you are concerned, go to another country and reside with your wife," Vann said.

Last year, al-Timimi told Arabic language network Al-Jazeera: "An American citizen should never kill another fellow American, no matter what the pretext. In Islamic law, if an Islamic country is attacked, those citizens of that country have a right to self-defense. And this is something that is not just an Islamic law, but it's also an international law.

"So, for the government to take a discussion that I might have had in the past, talking about the law of warfare in Islam, where I might say in a lecture that I gave in 1996 that if an Islamic country [is attacked], by Islamic law, then the inhabitants of that country can defend themselves. And now to try to say that therefore I have encouraged killing, it is really a very silly and theatrical sort of way of trying to present charges."

Officials said al-Timimi is not under arrest, and he is expected to face arraignment October 1.

Vann said, "We feel the timing of this is suspect" because the attorneys had told the government that al-Timimi is scheduled to defend a dissertation on cancer research in five weeks, and the indictment will make that impossible unless he is freed on bail.

Vann said al-Timimi has made himself available to the government and had been interviewed seven times.

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