Archive for Saturday, August 9, 2003

Detained Pakistani charged with aiding al-Qaida affiliate

August 9, 2003

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— A Pakistani man incarcerated for four months in the government's terrorism probe was charged Friday with entering the United States to help clear the way for an al-Qaida associate to sneak in.

Uzair Paracha, 23, detained as a material witness since his March arrest in New York, waved and smiled to more than a dozen family members as he entered U.S. District Court in Manhattan for a brief appearance. He was detained pending a bail hearing next week.

According to the criminal complaint, Paracha agreed to help the al-Qaida associate obtain documents that would let him enter the United States and help him obtain legal immigration status. The government has not released the associate's identity but says the man has remained overseas.

Anthony Ricco, Paracha's lawyer, said outside court that his client was manipulated into helping the associate and was looking forward to a trial to prove that he had no criminal intent.

He described Paracha as "a very bright, but, I say, a very naive young man" and added that he did not expect to contest that his client knew the associate was in al-Qaida.

"Having knowledge someone is in al-Qaida is not a criminal act," Ricco said. "Many members of al-Qaida are not involved in criminal activity."

Prosecutors said Paracha met with a man believed to be an al-Qaida associate in Karachi, Pakistan, before Paracha traveled in mid-February to the United States.

Paracha was told that the man wanted to invest about $200,000 in the business for which Paracha worked in Karachi -- and that he was not to ask any questions because the associate and a second man were supporters of Osama bin Laden, the complaint alleged.

The complaint said Paracha believed the funds belonged to al-Qaida and that he needed to perform certain tasks for the money to be invested.

The man asked Paracha, a permanent U.S. resident, to contact U.S. immigration authorities and pose as the associate to get a travel document that would allow the associate to enter the United States, according to the complaint.

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