Mohammad Hassan Khalid became the youngest person ever to be convicted of terrorism charges in the United States. Khalid, who was a 17-year-old teen at the time of his arrest, was sentenced to five years in prison for supporting an international terrorist cell that included Colleen LaRose (Jihad Jane) in their ranks.
It was a terrorism case that captured the attention of the American people. Khalid and one of his co-defendants LaRose, a Montgomery County-based housewife, known worldwide by her online name, “Jihad Jane” were accused of plotting to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. Vilks had produced a cartoon that showed the Prophet Muhammad as a dog. The plot was unearthed before being carried to fruition. LaRose confessed and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in January for her role in the murder plot.
Khalid, 20, was convicted of providing material support to LaRose. According to his defense attorney Jeffrey Lindy, Khalid received a box that contained false identity documents from LaRose and mailed “parts of the box” to alleged co-conspirator Ali Damache, who is from Algeria but currently lives in Ireland. Damache, the supposed ringleader of the terrorist cell, has also been indicted by American federal authorities and is in Irish custody, where is he fighting extradition efforts to the United States.
Khalid, who is the son of Pakistani immigrants, came to the United States at the age of 12. A former high school honors student, Khalid had aced his SATs and had received a full scholarship of $54,000 per year to attend Johns Hopkins University to study creative writing and computer science. He was arrested before he could finish high school and start classes at the prestigious university.
Requesting leniency, his attorney Lindy presented evidence that Khalid had untreated Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes him awkward, socially immature and easy to manipulation. Lindy portrayed the young man as being a loner, who felt isolated at school and within his family. Instead he turned to jihadist chat rooms on the Internet and started communicating with strangers, including LaRose.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams told the judge that the defense was grossly oversimplifying the charges and there was more to it than just mailing a box. Instead she accused the then-teen of supporting LaRose (Jihad Jane) by posting materials, which he translated from Urdu to English, “with eloquence and brilliance” to help recruit young people into the world of violent jihad.
Williams underlined Khalid’s involvement with the terrorist world by pointing out that Khalid’s coöperation with FBI agents after his arrest had led them to previously undiscovered online jihadist networks and made “a big difference” in at least three other American terrorism cases.
As he stood in front of Judge Petrese Tucker of the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the young man sobbed and begged for mercy. Looking gaunt in a loose green prison uniform, Khalid also thanked his family for their support as he stood trial for his transgressions, including discussions of “martyrdom operations” with LaRose (Jihad Jane) as a teen.
Handing out a sentence of five years, Judge Tucker took into account his youth and coöperation with the government, and gave him credit for the three years he had been behind bars while awaiting trial. With good behavior, Khalid, the teen supporter of LaRose (Jihad Jane) is likely to serve another 15 months of his sentence. Since he is not a citizen of the country, Khalid is likely to be deported to Pakistan after release.
By Monalisa Gangopadhyay.