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Pak-Canadian jailed for helping Sikh militant group

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 11:27

New York: A 50-year-old Pakistani-Canadian
has been sentenced to 14 years in jail for providing material
support to the Sikh militant group Khalistan Commando Force,
blamed for carrying out assassinations and bombings in India.

Khalid Awan was convicted in 2006 by a US federal jury in
Brooklyn for providing financial aid to Khalistan Commando
Force (KCF).

In 2007, Awan was given a 14 year prison sentence, which
was vacated by the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals court had ordered a lower court to consider
handing him a longer sentence for a "terrorism enhancement"
after prosecutors filed an appeal.

Awan was re-sentenced yesterday to 14 years` imprisonment
by federal judge Allyne Ross on the terrorism charges.

"During yesterday`s sentencing proceeding, the district
court found that all three of Awan`s crimes intended to
promote crimes of terrorism, and imposed a prison sentence of
14 years," the Justice Department said yesterday.

In a statement, the FBI said KCF comprises Sikh militants
seeking a separate Sikh state in Punjab and has been
responsible for thousands of deaths in India since it was
founded in 1986.

The organisation has engaged in numerous assassinations
of prominent Indian government officials including that of
Chief Minister Beant Singh of Punjab in 1995 and hundreds of
bombings, acts of sabotage, and kidnappings.

The US Attorney`s Office and the FBI began investigation
against Awan in 2003 after an inmate at the Metropolitan
Detention Center in Brooklyn, where Awan was jailed on federal
credit card fraud charges, reported that Awan boasted of his
relationship with Paramjit Singh Panjwar, KCF`s leader and one
of the 10 most wanted fugitives in India.

According to a 2006 media report, Awan was first detained
by the New York police after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

At Awan`s trial, the government offered recordings of his
prison telephone calls to Panjwar, Pakistan, in which Awan
spoke of recruiting new members for the KCF and admitted
having had sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to the
organisation in the past.

Following his trial convictions, the Second Circuit Court
of Appeals affirmed Awan`s three counts of conviction but
vacated his sentence and remanded his case to the district
court, instructing the court to determine whether Awan`s
crimes were intended to promote or involved federal crimes of
terrorism under the United States Sentencing Guidelines.

US Attorney Loretta Lynch thanked the government of India
and the Punjab Police Department for their cooperation in this


First Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 11:26

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