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Pakistani guilty of aiding Sikh militants

IANS
Dec 21, 2006 at 12:09pm IST

New York: A Pakistani man living in New York has been convicted by a federal jury for providing money to the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF), a terrorist organisation that carried out the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

Khalid Awan, who was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn on Wednesday after a two-week trial, faces a maximum of 45 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 7, 2007 by US District Judge Charles P Sifton.

He was held responsible for hundreds of deaths in India in the eighties and nineties. The US attorney described the judgement as part of the "global battle" on terror.

JUSTICE DELIVERED: The US attorney described the judgement as part of the "global battle" on terror.

The conviction was announced by US Attorney Roslynn R Mauskopf of the Eastern District of New York and FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Mark J Mershon of the New York Field Office.

"The war on terror is a global battle," stated Mauskopf. "We will not permit individuals in our jurisdiction to finance terrorist groups responsible for murder and violence in any part of the world."

"To succeed in the war on terror we and our partners around the world have to view support of terrorism anywhere as an affront to peace-loving people everywhere," stated Mershon. "The security of each of us depends on the determination of all of us to join forces in a truly global effort."

The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force began investigation in 2003 after a report from an inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn, where Awan was incarcerated on federal credit card fraud charges.

Awan often boasted of his relationship with Paramjit Singh Panjwar, the leader of the KCF and one of the 10 most wanted fugitives in India, the other prisoner told investigators.

The government's evidence at trial included recordings of Awan's prison telephone calls to Panjwar in Pakistan, in which Awan introduced the inmate as a potential recruit for the KCF; statements by Awan admitting that he sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to KCF; and testimony by two New York-area fund raisers for the KCF who stated that they delivered money to Awan's residence in Garden City.

It also included testimony by the Assistant Inspector General of the Punjab Police Intelligence Division that the KCF was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent victims in India.

KCF was formed in 1986 and is comprised of Sikh militants who seek to establish a separate Sikh state in the Punjab.

The organisation has engaged in numerous assassinations of prominent Indian government officials,including the murder of chief minister Beant Singh of Punjab in 1995, and hundreds of bombings, acts of sabotage and kidnappings, an official release said.

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