Pak-Canadian jailed for helping Sikh militant group



Pak-Canadian jailed for helping Sikh militant group 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 case.

PTI