NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Two men tried to buy boots, winter coats and other gear for Taliban and al Qaeda soldiers fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, authorities said Thursday in announcing state-level terrorism charges.
Police say Humayoun Nabi, 27, and Ismail Alsarabbi, 32, were busted after a two-year investigation that involved confidential informants and undercover detectives.
Lawyers who represented the men at their initial court appearance this week in Queens said their clients had been manipulated by police.
“If you have to spend more than 18 months trying to get someone to send coats and shoes to the people of Afghanistan, and you have all these cops on the case, to me that sounds like entrapment,” said Ken Finkelstein, Nabi’s attorney. “If you remove the police from this, you have nothing.”
According to a criminal complaint, Nabi told a confidential informant that he hated the United States and wanted to take a stand. He told the informant he wanted to form a nonprofit where he could siphon away money for Afghan fighters. The nonprofit was not formed, police said.
“We are sitting here breathing in peace eating chicken and roasts and our brothers, they are dying,” Nabi told the informant, according to the complaint.
The two suspects believed the key to beating U.S. forces overseas was through properly outfitted Taliban soldiers, authorities said. The fighters could then kill American soldiers “and cut them into pieces,” Nabi said, according to the complaint.
Nabi, working with Alsarabbi, wanted to buy socks, shoes, coats and electronics to ship oversees to a warehouse. They met with a man set up by detectives who provided the men with sample gear, authorities said.
Their lawyers say the men were clearly innocent.
“There was nothing in the complaint about bullets, guns, rockets, grenades,” said Alsarabbi’s attorney Sean McNicholas. “They were talking about sending winter coats and boots to the people of Afghanistan.”
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the winter gear “in the context of the fighting in Afghanistan is as serious as supplying the enemy with bullets and bombs. These supplies would have enabled the terrorists to endure the harsh Afghan winters and extend the fighting season.”
WEB EXTRA: Read The Criminal Complaint (pdf)
“These defendants, as a result, were not merely conspiring to supply clothing items to people in Afghanistan, they were conspiring to make the enemy more effective in engaging and killing American soldiers,” Brown added.
Nabi, who lives in Queens, is a Pakistani national who has a wife, child and good job, according to his attorney. Alsarabbi is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kuwait and appeared in court with his brothers.
“The arrests of these two New York City residents, Nabi and Alsarabbi, demonstrate the spectrum of terrorism threats that the New York City Police Department must continue to guard against. The cold weather gear and electronics that the pair sought to provide could have endangered the safety of Americans as much as supplies of guns and ammunition,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a statement.
Both men were being held on $500,000 bail and face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
They are due back in court on Oct. 25.
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