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US: Pakistani convicted for financing Sikh militant group
December 21, 2006 09:08 IST
A Pakistani has been convicted by a US federal jury for providing financial aid to the Sikh militant group Khalistan Commando Force, responsible for thousands of deaths in India, and could face a maximum of 45 years in prison.
After two weeks of trial, the federal jury convicted a guilty verdict against Khalid Awan, a Pakistani national living in New York for links with the KCF. Awan is said to have provided money and financial services to the KCF.
He will be sentenced on March 7, 2007, and faces a maximum of 45 years in prison.
The conviction was announced by US Attorney Roslyn Mauskopf of the eastern district of New York and Assistant Director in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York Mark Mershon.
"The war on terror is a global battle.We will not permit individuals in our jurisdictions to finance terrorist groups responsible for murder and violence in any part of the world," Mauskopf said.
The justice department maintained that the KCF, which is comprised of Sikh militants seeking a separate state in Punjab, has engaged in numerous assassinations of prominent Indian government officials -- including the murder of the then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995 and hundreds of bombings, acts of sabotage and kidnappings.
The attorney's office in New York and the FBI began investigation in 2003 after an inmate at a detention centre in Brooklyn where Awan was incarcerated for credit card fraud told authorities that Awan had boasted his relationship with Paramjit Singh Panjwar, the leader of the KCF and one of the 10 most wanted fugitives in India.
According to the attorney's office of New York, the government's evidence at trial included recordings of Awan's prison telephone calls to Panjwar in Pakistan, in which Awan introduced the inmate as a potential recruit for the KCF and statements by Awan admitting that he sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to KCF.
It also included testimony by two New York-area fund raisers for the KCF who stated that they delivered money to Awan's residence in Garden City; and testimony by the assistant inspector general of the Punjab Police Intelligence Division that the KCF was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent victims in India.