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Monday, December 22, 2008
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Member of Afghan Taliban Sentenced to Life in Prison in Nation’s First Conviction on Narco-terror Charges

WASHINGTON – A member of an Afghan Taliban cell was sentenced today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to two terms of life in prison on drug and narco-terrorism charges, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division announced.

Khan Mohammed, 38, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to serve the two life sentences concurrently as well as 60 months of supervised release, served consecutively, for each of the two counts of conviction following the prison term. Mohammed was convicted on May 15, 2008, after a seven-day jury trial on one count of distribution of one kilogram or more of heroin knowing and intending that it be imported into the United States and one count of narco-terrorism, or the distribution of a controlled substance (in this case heroin and opium) in order to provide something of pecuniary value to a person or group that has engaged or is engaging in terrorist activity. The conviction represented the first time a defendant had been convicted in U.S. federal court of narco-terrorism since the statute was enacted in March 2006.

Mohammed, an Afghan national, was arrested on Oct. 29, 2006, near Jalalabad, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan. Mohammed waived extradition and was brought from Afghanistan to the United States in November 2007.

"A violent jihadist and narcotics trafficker, Khan Mohammed sought to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan using rockets," said Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Matthew Friedrich. "Today's life sentences match the gravity of the crimes for which he was convicted."

"The conclusion of Khan Mohammed’s prosecution demonstrates DEA’s ability and determination to go to the far corners of the world to bring to justice narco-terrorists who seek to harm Americans," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "Today's strong sentence in this groundbreaking case is the result that can be expected by those who support terrorism by trafficking in narcotics."

The evidence at trial established the following:

According the evidence presented at trial, the Taliban are an ultraconservative, Islamic militia that has continued to mount an insurgency against the Afghan government since it was removed from power in Afghanistan by Coalition forces in late 2001. According to court documents, as early as 1999, when the Taliban controlled much of Afghanistan, the United States recognized that they were facilitators of terrorism. DEA agents testified at trial that the Taliban has taken on a central role in every stage of opium/heroin production and transportation, relying on it as a principal source of funding for its activities. One agent testified that more than 50 percent of DEA cases have a definitive Taliban dimension.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Matthew Stiglitz, Deputy Chief for Litigation Julius Rothstein and paralegal Arianne Tice from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The investigation was led by the DEA, in close cooperation with Afghan law enforcement.