An introverted 18-year-old Pakistani man living in the Philadelphia area legally was indicted on Oct. 20 on charges that, while a minor, he conspired with an American woman to kill a Swedish cartoonist. The woman at the center of the case, known in the press as “Jihad Jane,” pleaded guilty in February for her role in the plot. He is the youngest person ever charged by the U.S. government with conspiracy to support terrorism.
Authorities claim that the when the defendant was in his mid-teens, he used the Internet to help the woman carry out her goal of assassinating the cartoonist, whom she believed had committed blasphemy against Islam. The FBI arrested the man, now 18, in July, but did not officially publicize the arrest until the day the indictment was handed down.
The government’s conspiracy theory involves the 18-year-old, the woman known as Jihad Jane – whose blonde hair and blue eyes were allegedly thought to be useful to avoid attention from authorities – and two others. They were a 46-year-old Algerian man held in Ireland but also indicted by the Philadelphia grand jury on Oct. 20, and his wife, an American who allegedly moved to Ireland to marry the Algerian man without having met him. Federal prosecutors claim the 18-year-old used his home computer to recruit others to wage jihad and raise money for international organizations linked to terrorism.
The defendant’s attorney denied that his client’s online activities amounted to taking part in a terrorist conspiracy. He noted the defendant was quite young at the time, 15 to 16 years old, and called the government’s charges a “misimpression of how the Internet was used in this case.” He vowed to vigorously contest the charges at trial.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “18-year-old charged in ‘Jihad Jane’ terror case,” John Shiffman, Oct. 21, 2011