DENVER (AP) – An Uzbek refugee living in suburban Denver morphed from a human rights worker to someone who either provided or tried to provide support to a terrorist organization that actively engages NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, federal prosecutors said Tuesday during a bond hearing.
A federal magistrate judge heard arguments about whether Jamshid Muhtorov, of Aurora, should be released on bail while he awaits his trial on one count of providing material support and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic Jihad Union. The violent group opposes the Uzbek government and has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department following attacks on U.S. and Israeli embassies in 2004.
Federal public defender Brian Leedy said Muhtorov signed onto the group’s website and engaged with those operating it to learn more about what was happening in his home country and was headed to the region to visit family.
Agents who arrested Muhtorov Jan. 21 in Chicago found him in possession of two shrink-wrapped iPhones and an iPad as well as a GPS device and $2,865 in cash, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Holloway told U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty. Holloway said prosecutors would explain what they believe those devices were for later, adding that the case remains under investigation.
“How can he support terrorism when he could barely support his family?” Holloway said Muhtorov told agents after his arrest. “He told agents his arrest was a mistake.”
Leedy said Muhtorov’s family in the region includes a brother in Kazakhstan and a sister who remains imprisoned in Uzbekistan.
Muhtorov quit his job, bought a one-way ticket to Turkey and carried the cash because of the complicated nature of traveling in the region and the uncertainty of when he might return to his job, his wife and two young daughters, Leedy said.
“In any given case, I’d be concerned with the defendant. A person who has a family, then quits his job and buys a one-way ticket to Turkey is clearly a sign that he’s not living in the best of circumstances,” Hegarty said in telling Leedy why he would probably not grant bail.
Hegarty did not immediately rule. He indicated he would issue his decision in the next day or two.
The FBI said Muhtorov communicated with a contact with the IJU by email using code words, asking to be invited to the “wedding.” He also told the contact that he was “ready for any task, even with the risk of dying,” the FBI said.
Muhtorov, a human rights worker, resettled in Aurora in 2007 with the help of the United Nations and the U.S. government.
Holloway, quoting letters sent to the court and other documents, said Muhtorov was an educated man who discovered America wasn’t all it was “cracked up to be” and could only find manual labor jobs and worked as a truck driver. Holloway painted a picture of Muhtorov being dissatisfied with his wife having to work to make ends meet and living in a bedbug-infested “crappy apartment.”
“The ideas he’s developed … is coming up with the next step and that is global jihad and support to combat coalition and U.S. forces,” Holloway said of Muhtorov’s emerging views since 2010.
Leedy argued that evidence gathered through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act should be thrown out for the purpose of holding Muhtorov without bail. FISA allows secret wiretapping and other electronic monitoring.
Leedy noted that Muhtorov and his wife had been arguing last summer about visiting family in the region and there’s a three-month gap from September to January in court documents of monitored communications that could better explain Muhtorov’s actions.
“Picking and choosing is simply ineffective in explaining what was going on at this time,” Leedy said.
As he was led out of courtroom by U.S. marshals, Muhtorov smiled, waved and gave a thumbs up sign to a tearful woman who was wearing a hijab in the front row of the courtroom gallery.
- By P. Solomon Banda, AP Writer
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