Haroon Aswat Extradited From The United Kingdom To The Southern District Of New York To Face Terrorism Charges
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and William J. Bratton, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the extradition of HAROON ASWAT from the United Kingdom to face charges of conspiring to provide and providing material support to al Qaeda and terrorists for attempting to establish a terrorist training camp in the United States.
ASWAT was arrested in Zambia in July 2005, and in August 2005, ASWAT was deported from Zambia to the United Kingdom, where he was arrested pursuant to a provisional warrant that was issued in response to a request by the U.S. Government in connection with this case. On September 4, 2014, the United Kingdom ordered ASWAT extradited to the United States on the charges described below. In coordination with British authorities, ASWAT was extradited from the United Kingdom to the Southern District of New York on October 21, 2014. ASWAT will make his first court appearance later today before U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment, statements made at related court proceedings, and evidence presented at prior trials:
In late 1999, ASWAT, along with co-defendants Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, a/k/a “Abu Hamza” (“Abu Hamza”), Ouassama Kassir, and Earnest James Ujaama, attempted to create a terrorist training camp in the United States to support al Qaeda, which has been designated by the United States Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization. ASWAT conspired with Abu Hamza, Kassir, and Ujaama to establish the terrorist training camp on a rural parcel of property located in Bly, Oregon. The purpose of the Bly, Oregon camp was for Muslims to receive various types of training – including military-style jihad training – in preparation to fight jihad in Afghanistan. As used by the conspirators in this case, the term “jihad” meant defending Islam against purported enemies through violence and armed aggression, including, if necessary, by using murder to expel non-believers from Muslim holy lands.
In a letter faxed from Ujaama, in the United States, to Abu Hamza, in the United Kingdom, the property in Bly was described as a place that “looks just like Afghanistan,” and the letter noted that the men at Bly were “stock-piling weapons and ammunition.” In late 1999, after transmission of the faxed letter, Abu Hamza directed ASWAT and Kassir, both of whom resided in London, England, and attended Abu Hamza’s mosque there, to travel to Oregon to assist in establishing the camp. On November 26, 1999, ASWAT and Kassir arrived in New York, and then traveled to Bly.
ASWAT and Kassir traveled to Bly for the purpose of training men to fight jihad. Kassir told witnesses that he supported Usama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, and that he had previously received jihad training in Pakistan. Kassir also possessed a compact disc that contained instructions on how to make bombs and poisons. After leaving Bly, ASWAT and Kassir traveled to Seattle, Washington, where they resided at a mosque for approximately two months. While in Seattle, Kassir, in ASWAT’s presence, provided men from the mosque with additional terrorist training lessons – including instructions on different types of weapons, how to construct a homemade silencer for a firearm, how to assemble and disassemble an AK-47, and how an AK-47 could be altered to be fully automatic and to launch a grenade. On another occasion, with ASWAT sitting by his side, Kassir announced to the men in Seattle that he had come to the United States for martyrdom and to destroy, and he informed his audience that some of them could die or get hurt.
In September 2002, special agents from the FBI recovered a ledger, among other items, from an al Qaeda safe house in Karachi, Pakistan. The ledger listed a number of individuals associated with al Qaeda, including ASWAT. The al Qaeda safe house was used by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda’s chief operational planner and the alleged planner of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Indictment charges ASWAT, 40, a British citizen, with four offenses that carry the following maximum penalties:
1) Conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists (18 U.S.C. § 371): Five years
2) Providing material support to terrorists (18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A, 2): 10 years
3) Conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (al Qaeda) (18 U.S.C. §2339B): 10 years
4) Providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization (al Qaeda) (18 U.S.C. §§ 2339B, 2): 10 years
The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
On May 12, 2009, after a four-week jury trial in the Southern District of New York, Kassir was found guilty of charges relating to his efforts to establish the terrorist training camp in Bly, and his operation of several terrorist websites. On September 15, 2009, U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan sentenced Kassir to life in prison.
On May 19, 2014, after a four-week jury trial in the Southern District of New York, Abu Hamza was found guilty of charges relating to his role in the conspiracy to establish the terrorist training camp in Bly, as well as his role in a hostage-taking in Yemen in 1998 that resulted in four deaths, and his support of violent jihad in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001. Abu Hamza is scheduled to be sentenced on January 9, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s Manhattan-based Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents and detectives of the FBI and the NYPD, the United States Marshals Service, and the Metropolitan Police Department of London, England. Mr. Bharara also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs for their ongoing assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John P. Cronan and Ian McGinley are in charge of the prosecution.
The allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.