Pakistani national found guilty of conspiring to back Taliban, unlawful firearms possession

HOUSTON (AP) — A Pakistani college student living in Texas was convicted Thursday of conspiring to help the Taliban and fight U.S. troops.

A federal jury convicted Adnan Babar Mirza, 33, of two conspiracy counts and seven firearms violations after a three-day trial in Houston. He faces up to five years in prison on each conspiracy count and 10 years on the weapons counts when he is sentenced on Sept. 10.

Mirza, who remains in federal custody, was one of four men arrested in 2006 for alleged participation in paramilitary training exercises at campsites around the Houston area so they could engage in a holy war.

Mirza's attorney, David Adler, told jurors Mirza went on camping trips but denied they involved paramilitary training exercises.

Prosecutor Jim McAlister told jurors that the activities of Mirza and the other three men came to authorities' attention after another of their friends, James Coates, decided "things were getting out of hand" and became an FBI informant.

Mirza claimed Coates was the one who was militant and promoted violence.

An undercover officer taped conversations with Mirza and the other men in which they allegedly talked about ambushing U.S. soldiers and triggering a bomb with a cell phone, according to court documents.

FBI Special Agent John McKinley, the prosecution's first witness, told jurors Mirza can be heard on the taped conversations talking about sending money to support Taliban families. Prosecutors have said Mirza collected about $900 for Taliban fighters and their families.

But Adler said it's not against the law to send money to the families of Taliban fighters and Mirza collected money for hospitals and other groups but not specifically for the Taliban.

He also said Mirza can be heard in these taped conversations expressing anger about injustices Muslims around the world have experienced, but his client was just expressing emotion and didn't intend to act on it.

Prosecutors also said Mirza, who was attending Houston Community College, was in the country illegally because he violated his student visa by working.

Adler denied his client violated his student visa by working.

The three other men who were arrested have pleaded guilty or been convicted.

Kobie Diallo Williams, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced in August to 4½ years in prison for conspiring to join the Taliban and fight against U.S. forces.

Syed Maaz Shah, a former Pakistani engineering student at the University of Texas at Dallas, was sentenced in 2007 to 6½ years in prison on federal firearms charges. Shiraz Syed Qazi, also a Pakistani student and Mirza's cousin, received a 10-month prison sentence in 2007 on a firearms charge.