This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/799
July 14, 2005
Paintball push led to treason verdict
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia -- A prominent Islamic scholar with "rock star status" who influenced young members of a paintball club called the "Virginia Jihad Network" to join the Taliban and fight U.S. troops, was sentenced yesterday to life in prison.
Ali al-Timimi was convicted in April of soliciting treason, inducing others to aid the Taliban, and inducing others to use firearms in violation of federal law.
"I will not admit guilt, nor seek the court's mercy. I do this simply because I am innocent," the Fairfax cleric said in a 10-minute address before sentencing.
Lawyers Edward MacMahon and Alan Yamamoto argued al-Timimi was unfairly prejudiced at trial by inflammatory evidence of his religious beliefs, and accused prosecutors of misconduct for unfairly linking al-Timimi to Osama bin Laden.
"We had to defend ourselves against Osama bin Laden in this trial," MacMahon said yesterday.
"Am I appalled by some of his views? Yes. But he is not a man of violence. He's not a criminal."
Assistant U.S. attorney Gordon Kromberg said al-Timimi "hates the United States" and has called for its destruction.
Muslim Lecturer Sentenced To Life
Followers Trained For Armed Jihad
By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 14, 2005; B01
A man convicted for what he said -- words that prosecutors said incited his followers to train for violent jihad against the United States -- had a few more things to say yesterday in a federal courtroom in Alexandria before he was sentenced to life in prison.
Ali Al-Timimi, a prominent Muslim spiritual leader, delivered an impassioned statement in which he asserted his innocence, read the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and said his religious beliefs do not recognize "secular law." He then compared himself to the Greek philosopher Socrates, who was sentenced to death for corrupting the young and dishonoring the gods of Athens.
will not admit guilt nor seek the court's mercy," Timimi told a courtroom crowded with his supporters and prosecutors. "Socrates was mercifully given a cup of hemlock. I was handed a life sentence."
As U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema pronounced the life sentence, Timimi nodded slightly. The judge then revoked his bond, and Timimi walked slowly away in the custody of U.S. marshals, smiling and waving at supporters in the emotionally charged courtroom.
Although Brinkema called the punishment "very draconian," she said she had no choice under congressionally mandated minimum sentencing requirements. And she criticized Timimi, 41, for his role in inspiring his followers to attend terrorist training camps abroad.
"I don't think any well-read person can doubt the truth that terrorist camps are an essential part of the new terrorism that is perpetrated in the world today," she said. "People of good will need to do whatever they can to stop that."
The contentious hearing reflected the passions surrounding the prosecution of Timimi. The Fairfax County resident was convicted in April, primarily for his pronouncements to his followers in a case that some experts said raised First Amendment issues but prosecutors called a major victory in the war on terrorism.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said Timimi "deserves every day of the time he will serve. . . . Timimi hates the United States and calls for its destruction. He is allowed to do that in this country. He is not allowed to solicit treason."
Defense lawyer Edward B. MacMahon Jr. said prosecutors have targeted Muslims since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "The local Muslim community is not a group of terrorists who need to be watched every moment by the FBI," said MacMahon, who accused Kromberg of using Timimi's religion to convince jurors that he is "the most dangerous man in the United States."
The Timimi case culminated an investigation in which 11 Muslim men, all but one from the Washington area, were charged with participating in paramilitary training -- including playing paintball -- to prepare for "holy war" abroad. Timimi was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the earlier case, in which nine men were convicted in 2003 and 2004.
Federal prosecutors have said the investigation secured more successful prosecutions than any other domestic terrorism case since Sept. 11, 2001.
Timimi, who was born and raised in the Washington area and has lectured on Islam around the world, was charged last year with 10 counts, including soliciting others to levy war against the United States and contributing services to Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers. After seven days of deliberation, a federal jury convicted him on all 10 counts.
Prosecutors said Timimi -- the former primary lecturer at the Center for Islamic Information and Education, also known as Dar Al-Arqam, in Falls Church -- was a revered figure to the Muslim men convicted in the earlier case.
The heart of the government's evidence against Timimi was a meeting he attended in Fairfax on Sept. 16, 2001, five days after the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Timimi told his followers that "the time had come for them to go abroad and join the mujaheddin engaged in violent jihad in Afghanistan," according to court papers.
Many who attended that meeting practiced for jihad by playing paintball in the Virginia countryside, and some left the United States for terrorist training camps, though none went to Afghanistan and fought against U.S. troops.
Defense lawyers portrayed Timimi as a Muslim scholar whose often-incendiary rhetoric merely reflected his right to free speech. Some legal experts agreed that the case raised troubling First Amendment concerns, while others said that his words crossed the line because they could have incited violence.
But Brinkema, in rejecting defense motions for acquittal and a new trial, said she was satisfied that the case did not "violate any of Timimi's First Amendment rights. This is not a case about speech. This is a case about intent."
The judge said that the mandatory sentences, including a life term for a gun charge -- made because Timimi incited some followers to fire weapons at terrorist training camps -- were "very draconian."
Defense lawyers, who vowed to appeal the verdict and sentence, said they understood that Brinkema had no choice. "I'm very saddened today that this has come to this," MacMahon said as he concluded his courtroom remarks.
Islamic cleric gets life in prison
Debra Erdley and Betsy Hiel
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Saying his words steered young men into terrorist training camps that are the lifeblood of a movement that plants bombs on subways and trains, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema sentenced an American Islamic scholar to life in prison Wednesday.
Ali al-Timimi, 42, of Fairfax, Va., who had ties to a now-defunct Pittsburgh-based magazine that advocated holy war, was convicted in a lengthy jury trial in federal court here last spring of recruiting a group of northern Virginia men to travel to Pakistan and train to take up arms for the Taliban. The men, who played paintball and went to shooting ranges to train for holy war, were dubbed the Virginia Paintball Jihad.
Before the trial, nine of al-Timimi's followers were convicted or pleaded guilty in the conspiracy prosecutors said grew in the shadow of the nation's capital in the days before 9/11 and blossomed on al-Timimi's advice in the week after the terrorist attacks.
Al-Timimi's conviction for soliciting treason and other charges marked the first post-9/11 trial in which the government won a terrorism verdict for actions tied to words designed to aid the enemy, rather than actual deeds such as providing money, equipment or engaging in combat.
Al-Timimi's name surfaced in Pittsburgh more than a decade ago. A scholar with an international following whose lectures still are sold on tape here and in England, al-Timimi was listed as a member of the advisory board of Assirat al-Mustaqeem, a militant Arabic language magazine that was published in Pittsburgh from 1991 through 2000.
Al-Timimi's attorneys, Edward MacMahon and Alan Yamamoto, characterized the scholar, who recently received a doctorate for work related to cancer research, as a gentle man of peace who had never been convicted of a crime or owned a weapon. They said he did nothing more than advise the young men to seek out a nation where they could practice Islam in safety.
They vowed to appeal the verdict, charging it was based on an anti-Muslim bias fueled by the unpopular sentiments on 10-year-old tapes of al-Timimi's lectures on Islam.
Brinkema took issue with those claims.
"This was not a case about speech. This was a case about intent. ... The real issue in this case was what the defendant intended by his speech," she said.
Brinkema said that prosecutor Gordon Kromberg specifically told jurors al-Timimi's sentiments did not represent Islam, but rather the beliefs of a small group within the faith.
She said testimony about a closed-door meeting between al-Timimi and his followers five days after 9/11 in which witnesses said al-Timimi urged them to aid the Taliban strongly supported the government's contention that there was indeed a scheme to aid the enemy.
Moreover, she said there is little argument that schools in Pakistan are used to "train people to go into subways, train stations and buildings and kill a great number of people."
Al-Timimi, who remained silent during his lengthy trial, told Brinkema yesterday he is innocent. He read a six-page statement, reciting the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and likening his trial to that of Aaron Burr, who served as vice president under Thomas Jefferson and was later tried and acquitted of treason. Finally, he compared himself to Socrates.
"I too like Socrates am accused and found guilty of nothing more than corrupting the youth and practicing a different religion than that of the majority," al-Timimi said. "Socrates was mercifully given a cup of hemlock. I was handed a life sentence."
As several women in head scarves, seated among his supporters, wiped tears from their eyes, the burly scholar, dressed in a business suit, identified himself as a prisoner of conscience and sat down.
Like Brinkema and the prosecutors, Evan Kohlman, a New York-based terrorism researcher and analyst who testified as an expert for the government, said the case had nothing to do with Islam.
"It has to do with a guy who incited a group of impressionable young people to go abroad to a terrorist training camp and get terrorist training in order to kill and maim civilians," Kohlman said yesterday.
None of al-Timimi's followers ever made it to Afghanistan. Several did leave the United States and train in terrorist camps in the mountains of Pakistan. They found themselves marooned there when the nation's mountain border with Afghanistan was closed as American soldiers routed the Taliban.
Brinkema conceded that life without parole for al-Timimi's seemingly removed role in the scheme might seem harsh, but said it's mandatory on one of the charges in his 10-count conviction, a weapons charge. The longest single sentence any of the other charges carried was 30 years in prison.
Reactions to the sentence were mixed among legal and civil rights experts.
Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University Law School in San Antonio, Texas, applauded prosecutors.
"The government has to have the ability to pierce the veil of religion and get to what these guys are advocating, and that's murder, and that is not protected speech," Addicott said.
"This is a tragedy for all of us because it brought into question the sanctity of the First Amendment," said El-Hajj Mauri Sallakhan, of the Maryland-based Peace and Justice Foundation, an Islamic human rights organization
David Cole, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, characterized al-Timimi's sentence as overly harsh and said the case raises questions about the violation of First Amendment free speech rights.
MIM: Any doubts about Al Tamimi's connections to the international Jihadist network should be dispelled by this sermon in support of him by 'Abu Abdur Rahman' who assures Muslims that Ali Al Tamimi has the support of the Ummah (community) and will be 'rewarded by Allah'.
"The believers are nothing else but brothers." (49:10) Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, "You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it," [Bukhari] Anyone reflecting upon this hadith of Prophet (S) would realize that if in fact the similitude of Muslim Ummah is like a single body, it would be inconceivable to imagine that if one of the Muslims is hurt or is transgressed upon at one end of the world, its impingement or sorrow will not be felt at the other end of the world. Regardless of the geographical location of the Muslims, every Muslim is still an element of this Ummah and the pain suffered by one Muslims is a pain suffered by whole Ummah. Muslims in the United States are certainly no exception to this. Surely the suffering of our dear brother Sheikh Ali Al-Timimi grieves us deeply indeed.
We must remember that whatever happens in this world is decreed by Allah (A) and it is our job to submit to this Divine decree. Say: "Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is our Maula (Lord, Helper and Protector)." And in Allah let the believers put their trust. (9:51) And this decree was written 50,000 years before Allah created the heavens and the earths. The prophet (SAW) said, "Allah had written the ordained measures (and due proportions) of the creation, fifty thousand years before the creation of the heavens and the earth and His ‘Arsh was on the water" [Muslim] That unjust verdict given on the 26th of April is no exception to this rule. If such is the final decree of Allah then the true follower of this Deen sees no other alternative besides being patient and supplicating to their Lord. He is our Lord and we seek His guidance alone.
One must also not forget that everything that happens in this world has wisdom behind it. A human being may or may not understand that wisdom. A person may like something which is bad for him and he may dislike something which is good for him. "It may happen that you hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows, you know not." (2:216) Know that at the end every matter is in favor of the believer. "Strange is the affair of the Mu'min (the believer), verily all his affairs are good for him. If something pleasing befalls him he thanks (Allah) and it becomes better for him. And if something harmful befalls him he is patient (Saabir) and it becomes better for him. And this is only for the Mu'mmin." [Muslim]
A Muslim must also remember that it is an ongoing Sunnah of Allah that he tests the believers and there is there is no change in His Sunnah. The Prophets and Messengers passed through the most severe of the tests. "Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, "When (will come) the Help of Allâh?" Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allâh is near!." (2:214) Allah also says, "Do you think that you will enter paradise without going through the trial? Allah has not yet tested you to see who among you strive hard for His cause and who show patience in adversity" (3:142). Sheikh Ali Al-Timimi has been tested by Allah and his steadfastness testifies to the strength of his faith and his commitment to the Deen of Allah.
In such tribulations we must remember that a believer must not have any ill thoughts about his Creator either. Without doubt, He is the merciful Lord. "Verily, Allah created, on the same very day when He created the heavens and the earth, one hundred parts of mercy. Every part of mercy is coextensive with the space between the heavens. and the earth and He out of this mercy endowed one part to the earth and it is because of this that the mother shows affection to her child and even the beasts and birds show kindness to one another and when there would be the Day of Resurrection, Allah would make full (use of Mercy). [Muslim]
Those rejoicing today's unjust verdict are ruining their hereafter by exchanging this world for the next – whether they claim to be believers or not - by transgressing upon the innocent believers for the sole reason that they proclaim "Our Lord is Allah." These "rejoicers" should also know that a day will come when this moment of rejoicing will turn into distress. This apparent victory is not everlasting. Did you not pay heed to the statement of Allah, And so are the days (good and not so good). We give to men by turns, that Allah may test those who believe (3:140). So the disbelievers will have their day but so will the believers who rely upon none other than Allah and seek his reward.
Those rejoicing in today's unjust verdict must also not forget that a true believer is less concerned about imprisonment since he already considers himself imprisoned in this world. No matter how enormous this world may seem, a true believer still considers himself incarcerated and follows the commands of his Lord alone. Only those who are short sighted and do not understand the reality of this temporary life see this world as a place where they are not sanctioned by any commands from their Creator. Surely our beloved Prophet prepared us for such instances when he said, "The world is a prison-house for a believer and Paradise for a non-believer" [Muslim].
So in one sense we may agree with our opponents to an extent! Today's unjust verdict, without doubt, causes our brother to face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Now we must also ask ourselves a question. Which life are we really referring to? If the reference is to the temporary life in this world then we must agree with those rejoicing the verdict that Sheikh Ali Al-Timimi does face life Imprisonment. However, if the reference is to the permanent life of the hereafter, then we must disagree on the basis of the constitution legislated for the whole of humanity – for both the "rejoicers" and the mourners of todays verdict - from the seven heavens. So listen and comprehend if you in fact seek guidance, that imprisonment of fire will be the final and permanent abode for those who reject the Prophets and Messengers and follows a path other than that of the true believers. The rejectors of this divine message will not receive any parole to leave this imprisonment of hell-fire. Allah (A) says: " Verily! Whoever comes to his Lord as a Mujrim (criminal, polytheist, disbeliever in the Oneness of Allah and His Messengers, sinner, etc.), then surely, for him is Hell, therein he will neither die nor live." (20:74) The rophet (S) said, "Death will come on the Day of Resurrection like a black and white ram, and it will stand between Paradise and Hell. It will be said, ‘O people of Paradise, do you recognize this?' They will crane their necks and look, and will say, ‘Yes, it is death.'
It will be said, ‘O people of Hell, do you recognize this?' They will crane their necks and look, and will say, ‘Yes, it is death.' Then the command will be issued and it will be slaughtered. Then it will be said, ‘O People of Paradise, it is eternal and there is no death. O people of Hell, it is eternal and there is no death.'" Then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) recited the verse (interpretation of the meaning): "And warn them (O Muhammad) of the Day of grief and regrets, when the case has been decided, while (now) they are in a state of carelessness, and they believe not" ( 19:39)
This is our understanding of life without parole and we fear that those rejoicing our current fate today will be sentenced to this life imprisonment in the hereafter, InshaAllah. So what holds you back from repenting and enjoying the everlasting happiness of the hereafter? Is it you love for this world? Then know that it will surely come to an end. Or is it your hatred for the believers? Then know that your Creator has promised their dominance even if you disdain it.
The world knew that Sheikh Ali Al-Timimi will face this trial bravely as he did and all praise is due unto Allah. His voice still booms in the ears of his students until this very day. By the grace of Allah, his patience, strength, and steadfastness was witnessed by the court that convicted him. Incarcerating him will only result in the strengthening of this Deen since there is no shield between the supplication of the oppressed and the Lord of the Universe. So the choice is yours indeed. Plead guilty in front of your Lord in exchange for the everlasting life in the hereafter.
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/799