Prosecutors seeking to indict five Americans on terrorist charges submitted their case to a Pakistani judge on Tuesday, accusing the men of waging war against Pakistan and plotting to attack the country.
All young Muslims from the Washington, D.C., area, the five were arrested in December in Punjab province not long after reaching Pakistan. They were reported missing by their families in November after one left behind a farewell video showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.
A senior police officer said soon after the men’s arrest that authorities were likely to deport them, but it now looks increasingly like they will face trial in Pakistan on charges that carry a maximum term of life imprisonment.
The men could be indicted on as many as seven charges at their next hearing on March 10, lawyer Hamid Malik, told The Associated Press. The judge ordered the defence to review the prosecution report presented in the Sargodha town court and to prepare a rebuttal.
Pakistani police have publicly made several accusations against the young men, claiming the suspects contacted Pakistani—based jihadi groups. They accused the five of using the social networking site Facebook and video—sharing site YouTube while they were in the U.S. to try to connect with extremist groups in Pakistan.
But their lawyers say they were heading to Afghanistan and had no plans to stage attacks inside Pakistan.
During past court hearings, the men have claimed they were tortured by Pakistani police and FBI agents. Pakistan and the U.S. have denied those allegations.
The U.S. has pressed an often reluctant Pakistan to crack down on militants on its territory, many of whom are believed involved in attacks on American and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. At the same time, several recent cases have highlighted incidences of foreigners signing up to join the insurgents on both sides of the border.
Two of the detained Americans are of Pakistani origin, while one is of Egyptian, one of Yemeni and one of Eritrean descent.