Atlanta: A 23-year-old Georgia man was convicted on Wednesday of aiding terrorist groups by sending videotapes of US landmarks overseas and plotting to support "violent jihad" after a federal jury rejected his arguments that it was empty talk.
The jury found Ehsanul Islam Sadequee guilty of all four charges he faced after about five hours of deliberations. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison and his sentencing is scheduled for October 15.
Authorities say Sadequee never posed an imminent threat to the US but he took concrete steps to bolster terrorists when he sent the videos overseas and tried to aid a Pakistani-based terror group while on a trip to Bangladesh.
Sadequee, who stared silently as the verdict was read, is the second Georgia terror suspect to be convicted in the last two months. A judge convicted Sadequee`s friend, Syed Haris Ahmed, in June on one count of conspiring to support terrorism in the US and abroad.
Sadequee`s relatives, who regularly packed the courtroom during the weeklong trial, said the conviction was an example of overzealous prosecution in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. Sadequee`s sister Sonali said she was "absolutely disappointed" by the jury`s decision.
"What`s most frustrating to see that the post-September 11 climate, even though Obama has communicated there`s going to be a shift, it hasn`t really gone down to the general understanding of the community and social attitudes," she said.
But federal authorities say it was a reminder that those who actively seek to aid terror groups may be lurking within the US. They said they had little choice but to snuff out a potential plot before it came to fruition.
Sadequee, who represented himself at trial, dismissed his online discussions about jihad as boastful chatter from a group of young men "who type faster than they think." He said he never considered following through on it.
"We were immature young guys who had imaginations running wild," Sadequee told jurors in his closing arguments on Tuesday. "But I was not then, and am not now, a terrorist."
Prosecutors, however, depicted Sadequee as a dangerous terrorist wannabe who needed to be stopped before he took action. Assistant US Attorney Robert McBurney said authorities had "overwhelming" evidence that Sadequee took concrete steps to aid terror organisations.