The sister of a Roswell man convicted of aiding terrorists said Thursday that her brother was trying to explore and dialogue with other young Muslim men and not helping organize a violent jihad.
Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 23, faces 60 years in prison after a federal jury in Atlanta convicted him Wednesday of four counts of aiding terrorists.
Sadequee was found guilty of sending homemade videos of Washington landmarks to a recruiter for Al Qaeda and another terrorist, both who have been convicted in the United Kingdom.
Prosecutors also said Sadequee talked online with terrorists about obtaining weapons and what to include in a video on how to make a bomb detonator.
Sadequee’s older sister, Sonali Sadequee, said at a press conference Thursday that the bigger picture in Sadequee’s case was not made public.
“I believe that we’re still very much in the grips of post-9/ 11 culture,” Sonali said, noting an “overwhelming fear” still present in the U.S.
Sonali said that when seen in context, the e-mails and chats show a bigger picture of how young Muslim men are exploring and learning about religious texts by discussing them together.
“It’s about the mere understanding of these very controversial issues,” Sonali said.
Sonali said the videos Sadequee shot were not planned and that government prosecutors did not establish any purpose as to why Sadequee sent the videos to Al Qaeda and another convicted terrorist.
She said her brother could have shot the videos to use for a book or an educational Web site.
“[Sadequee] loves to be with people, he loves to dialogue with the world, he loves to explore,” Sonali said. “In the end, that makes him an easy target.”
Mauri Saalakhan, Director of Operations of the Peace and Justice Foundation, said a great deal of frustrated young Muslim men, including Sadequee, are being convicted of “thought crimes” and sent to prison for long periods of time for merely “blowing off steam.”
Saalakhan said the Sadequee verdict represents an example of “barbarism” taking place in the justice system. He said that to think this barbarism will protect the country and make Americans safer is an “absurdity of the highest order.”
“I was not surprised at the verdict,” Saalakhan said. “It was clear to me that with the way conspiracy law has been constructed ... these young men were guilty. The question is — was it a just law?”
Sadequee dismissed his court-appointed attorney on the first day of the trial and opted to represent himself.
Sadequee decided to defend himself so that jurors could get to know him better, Sonali said.
Nine organizations, including the Peace and Justice Foundation, have worked together to draft a community action letter to send to President Barack Obama urging him to review Sadequee’s case. So far, 300 people across the country have signed.
Sadequee is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 15.
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