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US court releases Kashmiri separatist Ghulam Nabi Fai

December 26, 2013 18:27 IST

Kashmiri separatist leader Ghulam Nabi Fai was released early from a minimum-security penitentiary, thanks to a surprising motion moved by the prosecution.

He served only 16 months of a two-year sentence for conspiracy and violations of various tax laws pertaining to a nonprofit. Srinagar-born Fai, 64, was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, after Assistant United States Attorney Gordon Kromberg moved a motion November 15 calling for his prison sentence to be reduced.

Kromberg said Fai had provided information leading to the indictment of three individuals who had been funneling money from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence into the US to propagate Pakistan’s causes through the Kashmiri American Council, the non-profit that Fai headed.

:Over the course of many hours of debriefings, Fai provided truthful and helpful information with respect to some areas of inquiry, including the financing of the KAC by the ISI, and the use of straw donors by Zaheer Ahmad to arrange the transfer of ISI money to the KAC," Kromberg said.

“At least in part as a result of Fai’s information, one of the straw donors signed an agreement November 4, to plead guilty to a tax conspiracy involving asserting deductions for transfers to the KAC that were reimbursed by Ahmad in Pakistan. That plea agreement has yet to be entered in court.”

“As a result of Fai’s information, indictments were returned in the district November 7 against Abdul Akif, Saeed Bajwa, Javed Rehmat, and another individual who has yet to be arrested,” he added.

District Judge Liam O’Grady of Virginia, said in his order November 22, “Upon consideration of the government’s motion for reduction of sentence and... after having found that the defendant has rendered substantial assistance to the government, it is accordingly ordered that the government’s motion for reduction of sentence is granted.”

O’Grady added, “This was a difficult case when it came before me for sentencing. Fai, although conflicted as to what he was doing, lost his way and took funds that he shouldn’t have, committed a serious offense.”

Fai was arrested on July 19, 2011, for concealing the transfer of $3.5 million from the ISI to fund his illegal lobbying efforts that sought to influence the US government with regard to the Kashmir imbroglio. This was in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

In March 2012, Fai was sentenced to 24 months of incarceration and began his imprisonment at the Cumberland penitentiary June 26.

On the eve of his incarceration, Fai was feisty and defiant at several meetings across the country, pledging to continue his work ‘for the cause of Kashmir’ and telling his supporters that there was no restriction on him to continue his efforts toward self-determination and independence for the Kashmiri people.

He continued to point out that the initial charges leveled against him that he was an ISI agent, had been withdrawn by the prosecution.

Fai’s attorney Nina Ginsberg said that while, “On December 7, 2011, Fai pled guilty to conspiracy to make a false statement and to defraud the Internal Revenue Service,” her client had disagreed with the government “about the significance of the scheme to conceal the source of funds KAC received from Pakistan.”

‘Fai continues to disagree with statements in the government’s motion for reduction in sentence that, “For more than 20 years, he operated the Kashmiri American Council as a front for the Pakistani intelligence service and that he acted as an agent of Pakistani Intelligence,” she said.

Ginsberg acknowledged, “Fai readily admitted concealing his connections with Pakistan and the ISI in documents filed with the IRS and in statements to the federal agents investigating his activities.”

But she said, “At the same time, Fai denied that his advocacy on behalf of the people of Kashmir was ever influenced by the public or private positions supported by the government of Pakistan, or that he acted as an agent of Pakistani government.”

Ginsberg said, with 15 percent reduction of his prison term as moved by the government, Fai’s release date would be March 27,2014, and that “he has been approved for release to a half-way house in Newport News January 3, 2014.”

She added that Fai had also been told “that a job offer he has received in Washington, DC should result in an almost immediate transfer from the halfway house in Newport News to home confinement.”

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC