McLEAN, Va. – A former third-grade teacher at a Muslim school was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday for providing support to a Pakistani terrorist organization.
Ali Asad Chandia, 29, who taught at the al-Huda school in College Park, Md., is one of 11 Muslim men convicted in what prosecutors called a "Virginia jihad network." The network involved a group of men who played paintball in the Virginia woods in 2000 and 2001 as a means of training for global holy war.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, some group members turned their efforts against the United States, traveling to Pakistan with the goal of receiving military training and joining the Taliban in its fight against U.S. troops. None ever made it into Afghanistan.
At his sentencing hearing, Chandia maintained his innocence and said he would exact revenge against prosecutors in the afterlife.
"God knows well that I did not support any terrorists," Chandia said. "Those who participated in making my children orphans ... should just remember that the day of judgment is on the way."
He continued: "If my parents should die before me, I ask my mother to plead and complain to Allah that a piece of her heart was taken away because of some toy paintballs."
Prosecutors argued that Chandia had attended a training camp run by Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the U.S. government designated as a terrorist organization in December 2001.
A jury did not convict Chandia of attending a Lashkar camp, but it found him guilty of providing material support to a senior Lashkar officer on his trips to the U.S. in 2002 and 2003.
Specifically, Chandia was found guilty of serving as a driver for the Lashkar officer, Mohammed Ajmal Khan, and helping Lashkar ship 50,000 paintball pellets from the U.S. to Pakistan.