Uzbek refugee found guilty of supporting terror group

Jurors on Thursday found a refugee from Uzbekistan guilty of conspiring to support a terrorist group with $300 he received from a friend and by making plans to join the organization himself.

Thursday's verdict in a federal courtroom in Denver came more than six years after Jamshid Muhtorov's arrest at a Chicago airport. After a three-week trial, jurors found Muhtorov guilty of three charges: conspiring to provide $300 to the Islamic Jihad Union, providing or attempting to provide the $300 and providing or attempting to provide himself as support.

Jurors also found Muhtorov not guilty on another charge of providing or attempting to provide communications technology to the terror group. Prosecutors described the Islamic Jihad Union as an extremist splinter group that opposes the Uzbek government and has been blamed for attacks there and in Afghanistan.

The case led to the U.S. Justice Department's first disclosure that it intended to use information obtained through one of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance programs. Muhtorov's attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the program before the trial.

But Judge John Kane decided in 2015 that the program may have potential for abuse but did not violate Muhtorov's rights.

Prosecutors argued that Muhtorov, a former human rights worker who came to the Denver area in 2007 through a refugee resettlement program, became frustrated with life in the U.S. He began emailing with the terror group through its website and by 2012 told an FBI informant that he planned to join the group and become a fighter, they said.

Muhtorov's attorneys said the emails were just a coping method as Muhtorov adjusted to a new life in the United States, where he worked at a processing plant, a casino and then as a truck driver. They said he never intended to take any action either by sending money or joining the group himself.

Muhtorov never sent the money to the terror group and was traveling to Turkey to study Islam and help a brother who was in a refugee camp nearby when he was arrested, they said.

Kane did not immediately set a date to determine Muhtorov's sentence. An attorney for Muhtorov declined comment after the jury delivered its verdict.

Muhtorov's co-defendant, Bakhtiyor Jumaev, is set to be sentenced on July 18. Jumaev was found guilty on two terror-related counts at a separate trial that concluded on April 30.

Prosecutors accused Jumaev of using codes in conversations with Muhtorov to hide a $300 contribution intended for the terror group. Jumaev's attorneys said he was just repaying a debt to Muhtorov, who he considered a close friend.