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Court Orders New Hearing In Paintball Terror Case

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - The 4th Circuit has thrown out the 15-year prison sentence of former teacher Ali Asad Chandria, who was convicted of supporting a Pakistani terrorist organization by shipping paintball equipment to Pakistan that the group's members used to train for holy wars.

Chandria and 11 other U.S. Muslim men were indicted on charges related to their involvement in what prosecutors called a "Virginia jihad network," according to the Associated Press.

Chandria, a Pakistani national, lived in Germantown, Md., and attended the Dar al Arqam Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., known for a lecturer named Ali Timimi who openly supported violent jihad against enemies of Islam.

Prosecutors claimed Chandria traveled to Pakistan in 2001 to attend military training camps run by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a designated foreign terrorist organization. He also shipped about 50,000 paintball pellets to LET official Mohammad Ajmal Khan in Pakistan, though Chandria claimed he did not know that Khan had ties with LET.

Though Chandria was admittedly in Pakistan from 2001 to 2002, he said the trip was to prepare for a brother's wedding and to care for his father after surgery.

But investigators used the leads to search Chandria's house and car in May 2003, and found a CD-ROM containing a video that glorified the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and its perpetrators.

Chandria was charged in a four-count indictment that included charges of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. A jury convicted him on three counts, but acquitted him on the charge of supporting terrorists.

The appeals court unanimously upheld his 2006 conviction and roundly rejected all but one of his objections: the "terrorism enhancement" applied at sentencing. The court the government failed to show that he had committed the crime with the intent "to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct."

"Unlike in some cases where the enhancement has been applied, the acts underlying the conviction in this case were not violent terrorist acts," Judge Michael wrote. See ruling.

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