ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal judge in Virginia called for the immediate release Thursday of a ex-Marine who was training with a Pakistani terrorist group shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks occurred.
U. S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria ordered a number of graves of Seifullah Chapman’s conviction vacated, and ordered the release of Chapman, who was working a 65-year sentence.
Chapman travel to Pakistan for the Sept. 11 attacks to train with a group of Lashkar-e-Taiba. After the attacks of 9/11, Chapman at the end of his training, and returned to the U.S.
In April, the Supreme Court made a law allowing the deportation of some immigrants who commit crimes. The high court ruled that the law was unconstitutionally vague on what crimes would prompt deportation. Four terrorism suspects, including Chapman, argued they were convicted under a law that is also vague about the description of a “crime of violence.”
In April, Brinkema demanded the government show why they did not vacate the conviction obtained more than a decade ago against what prosecutors called a “Virginia jihad network” that used paintball games in the woods in the vicinity of Fredericksburg as a means of training for holy war. Several members of the group traveled to Pakistan after Sept. 11 with the goal of joining the Taliban in Afghanistan. During the process, several said they were persuaded to go when the group’s spiritual leader Ali Al-Timimi, said after Sept. 11 that the world was on the edge of an apocalyptic battle between Muslims and unbelievers.
Chapman admitted attending the Lashkar camp in August 2001 but said he did not do that to train for the holy war, but for a heavy physical challenge in the rugged Pakistani mountains.
Al Timimi, of Falls Church, was convicted of soliciting treason, among other counts, and sentenced to life in prison.
Masoud Khan, on the other hand, traveled to Pakistan after Sept. 11 to join the Lashkar, which the members of the group believed was the best way to get the necessary training to join the Taliban. Khan is serving a life sentence.
The fourth suspect influenced by Brinkema’s order, Ismail Royer, is already out of prison after serving more than a decade. He struck a plea deal in which he admitted help of some members of the group to make contact with Lashkar.
Royer said by phone Thursday that the development in Chapman’s case, makes him hopeful for his own.
“Even though it wouldn’t be a large part of the practical consequences, it would eliminate a firearms charge,” he said.
Chapman’s counts of conviction, but Brinkema noted that he was already more than 10 years he was sentenced to for the remaining convictions.
Brinkema has already said that they are objection required under federal law to impose the sentences they are considered as “draconian” and suggested they would have preferred to impose sentences of only 10 years, at Chapman and Khan.
Chapman and Khan already have their sentences reduced. This reduction occurred in 2005, after the Supreme court threw out mandatory sentencing guidelines.