Richmond: A federal jury last night convicted a former Russian military tank commander of planning and leading a Taliban attack on US forces in Afghanistan.
Irek Hamidullin showed no expression as guilty verdicts were read on all 15 counts, including providing material support to terrorism, attempting to destroy US aircraft and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. He faces up to life in prison. Sentencing was set for November 6.
The verdict came after eight hours of deliberations and five days of testimony.
Defense attorney Rob Wagner declined to say whether the convictions will be appealed.
The case addressed the novel question of whether an enemy combatant captured on a foreign battlefield can be convicted in civilian court of being a terrorist.
The Obama administration is trying to show it can use the criminal court system to deal with terror suspects, a move criticised by some lawmakers who believe such cases should be handled by military tribunals but the battlefield capture of Hamidullin and his transport to the US for trial makes his case different from others.
Defense attorneys had tried unsuccessfully to have the indictment dismissed, arguing that Hamidullin, 55, was essentially a prisoner of war and ineligible for trial in civilian court.
Defense attorney Paul Gill renewed the argument in his closing remarks to the jury earlier yesterday.
"This is war, everyone talks about it, that's what everyone has heard," he said. "Those kinds of conflicts do not and should not come to this court."
Prosecutors said federal law protects US soldiers no matter where they are. Assistant US Attorney Michael Gill said the evidence clearly shows he violated US laws.
"He made confident, consistent and corroborated confessions," the prosecutor said in closing arguments.
Hamidullin did not testify. In secretly recorded interviews, he talked about planning the attack but denied ever firing a shot.
The judge barred the government from using the word "terrorist" and prosecutors were not allowed to mention Osama bin Laden.
According to US officials, Hamidullin is a Russian veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan who stayed in the country and joined the Haqqani Network, a Taliban-affiliated militant group.
He allegedly led three groups of insurgents in a 2009 attack on Afghan border police in Khowst province.