CHICAGO: A federal judge sentenced a Pakistani-born Chicago taxi driver on Friday to 7 1/2 years in prison for attempting to send money to a terrorist with alleged links to al Qaeda, telling the 58-year-old he had violated a citizenship oath made to God promising never to do harm to the United States.
Stepping before the judge in an orange jail jumpsuit and with his legs shackled before he was sentenced, Raja Lahrasib Khan unfolded a piece of crumpled paper and read a brief statement apologising for seeking to send funds to Pakistan-based terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri.
”I made a bad decision. I did something for which I am ashamed,” a somber, visibly distressed Khan told the courtroom in Chicago. ”Your honor, I ask for your mercy.”
Khan’s wife wept on a spectators’ bench as he spoke, and his son and daughter were sitting nearby. Several taxi drivers also attended the hearing to express support for their one-time co-worker.
Khan pleaded guilty in February to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorism. His plea agreement recommended a relatively lenient five- to eight-year sentence – well short of the 15-year maximum – in a concession for Khan’s willingness to cooperate with authorities.
Judge James Zagel mostly struck a calm, professorial tone in his remarks before imposing a sentence. But he grew angry as he began talking about the oath Khan took when he became a US citizen in 1988, the grizzled judge noting he had administered that oath himself hundreds of times.
Khan sent $950 in 2009 to an individual in Pakistan for delivery to Kashmiri; he also took $1,000 from an undercover agent, allegedly believing that it would be used to buy weapons and possibly other supplies.
In his comments to the judge Friday, prosecutor Chris Veatch conceded the amounts of money involved weren’t enormous, but he added terrorist groups rely on just such donations.