Prison Radicalization Risk Figures Into Judge Sentencing Terror Group Funder to Time Served
A Philadelphia man who was sentenced to time served for sending cash to fund a foreign terrorist organization in part because the judge highlighted a lack of resources to keep him from becoming radicalized in prison.
Bakhtiyor Jumaev, 51, was found guilty April 30 of two counts of material support of a foreign terrorist organization. His co-conpsirator, Jamshid Muhtorov, also an ethnic Uzbek, was found guilty last month of three counts of aiding a terrorist organization, and acquitted on one other count. In 2011, Jumaev sent Muhtorov $300 to help fund the Islamic Jihad Union, an al-Qaeda-affiliated Uzbek terror group.
Muhtorov was arrested in 2012 as he attempted to fly from Chicago to Turkey. He had $2,865 in cash and various pieces of electronic equipment that thought could bolster the group’s propaganda effort.
"What I really want to do is go fight and lose my life in the jihad,” Muhtorov told Jumaev in a monitored phone conversation, according to the FBI. “We’ll raise the banner of jihad with a weapon in one hand and a Quran in the other.”
U.S. District Judge for the District of Colorado John Kane ruled that the more than six years Jumaev has spent behind bars are enough.
Jumaev was sentenced last week to time served, 10 years of supervised release, and a $200 fine. Prosecutors had asked for a 15-year sentence, but Kane called that "absurd."
"Mr. Jumaev wrote only a single check, and the funds never reached the IJU or any other foreign terrorist organization. Mr. Jumaev had no specific plot or plan and did not intend to further any via his contribution. The idea to aid the terrorist organization was proposed and facilitated entirely by Mr. Muhtorov. Indeed, Mr. Jumaev had no direct contact with the members of any terrorist organization. And, significantly, he never committed any act of violence, nor did he advocate for any particular violent act," Kane wrote in his sentencing ruling.
Jumaev was working as a gas station attendant and custodian at the time of his arrest. Muhtorov stayed in Jumaev's apartment for a time, during which they "conversed about the Islamic Jihad Union and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the history of the two foreign terrorist organizations, and related propaganda videos they found online," the judge noted.
He acknowledged that Jumaev, who had no criminal history, "was familiar with the IJU‘s purpose and its activities and readily admitted to knowing that it was a foreign terrorist organization. Thus, he necessarily had a reason to believe, at a minimum, that any funds provided to the IJU would have been used to commit or assist in the commission of a violent act."
Kane called the government's application of the terrorism enhancement in their sentencing request "draconian," adding, "I struggle to find that Mr. Jumaev had either the specific intent to commit crimes that were calculated to influence, affect, or retaliate against a government or the intent to promote another‘s federal crime of terrorism when the jury‘s conviction of him could rest only on his knowledge. Mr. Jumaev convincingly argues that he both could have intended to repay his debt to Mr. Muhtorov while knowing that the funds would go to support a foreign terrorist organization... Jumaev gave only $300 to a person who himself was short on cash and did not even know how to get the money to the intended organization."
The judge stressed that he "cannot sentence Mr. Jumaev on an unfounded fear that he might do something and extend his sentence as a result."
Furthermore, he added that prison would likely do Jumaev more harm than good because of a lack of deradicalization resources.
"To my knowledge, the Bureau of Prisons offers no relevant training or rehabilitation programs available for Mr. Jumaev and his crimes," Kane wrote. "This is significant, because there is little hope that the negative influences resulting from a longer period of incarceration will be balanced with a productive program. I have considered the opportunity for Mr. Jumaev to pursue additional education opportunities while imprisoned but have determined that potential benefit is outweighed by the other factors."
Kane noted that "many commentators warn against unnecessarily lengthy sentences for terrorism offenses," citing a report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General that found a lack of Muslims among the Bureau of Prisons' religious service providers "renders the religion at perpetual risk of being guided by inmates who can hardly deliver authoritative spiritual guidance. More critically, it allows individuals to exploit the pulpit, depart from traditional teachings, and even propagate an extremist agenda."
Kane added that "these factors weigh against a protracted additional term of imprisonment."