Muslim student in gets 6 1/2 prison on terror charges in Texas -others remain in custody
September 16, 2007
Shah given 6 1/2 years in prison
September 15, 2007
The former Dallas college student whose camping trips near Houston led to a federal terrorism investigation continued to dispute the case against him Friday before a federal judge sentenced him to 6 1/2 years in prison. Syed Maaz Shah said prosecutors twisted his words and, as outsiders, misunderstood Islamic concepts like "jihad." "Among Muslims, we discuss things and we know what they mean," he said. "The government is picking and choosing and interpreting my comments to mean something else."
Shah said his personal "jihad," or struggle, was hundreds of hours of volunteer work to fight homelessness and hunger. "That is my struggle to do good," he told U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon during a lengthy statement. In May, a Houston federal jury convicted Shah of two counts of unlawfully possessing a firearm while in the country on a student visa. As a non-citizen, he was not allowed to have a firearm.
Born in Pakistan, Shah, 20, was on full scholarship at University of Texas at Dallas last year when he attended firearms training sessions at a camp site in Willis, near Conroe. Other participants included three Muslim students from Houston, also charged in the so-called Houston Taliban case, as well as a government informant and an undercover FBI agent.
Shah's lawyer, Frank Jackson of Dallas, argued that the government snared his client in a covert operation, then spun simple weapon violations into terrorism offenses. Jackson asked Harmon to hand down a two-year sentence. Prosecutors said Shah should receive a "terrorism bump" and serve a decade in prison because he was training to kill Americans to avenge what he perceived as the unjustified slaughter of Muslims by the U.S. in Iraq. The Muslim students from Houston remain in federal custody.