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Fai sentenced to two years after admitting links to ISI

Kashmiri separatist Ghulam Nabi Fai. File photo  

In the closely-watched case of Ghulam Nabi Fai (62), former Director of the Kashmiri American Council NGO, who pleaded guilty to allegations that he had failed to reveal his links to certain intelligence elements in Pakistan, was sentenced to two years in prison in a District Court in Eastern District of Virginia.

Announcing the sentence, which was surprisingly lower than the full five years that the court could have theoretically imposed upon him on the charge of concealing material facts about those links from the U.S. government, Judge Liam O’Grady said Fai would also face three years of supervised release.

In addition to the concealment of information charge Fai, who is a U.S. citizen, was accused of conspiracy and tax violations in connection with a decades-long scheme to conceal the transfer of at least $3.5 million from the government of Pakistan to fund his lobbying efforts in America related to Kashmir, the U.S. Department of Justice noted.

Under Fai the KAC was ostensibly “run by Kashmiris, financed by Americans, and dedicated to raising the level of knowledge in the United States about the struggle of the Kashmiri people for self-determination.” However court filings suggested that in fact the KAC was in receipt of shadowy tranches of funds from Pakistani officials, allegedly including the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

The DOJ emphasised that Fai admitted in court that, from 1990 until about July 18 last year, he “conspired with others to obtain money from officials employed by the government of Pakistan, including the ISI.” Fai was also said to have sent letters the DOJ asserting that the KAC was not funded by the government of Pakistan, and supplied numerous falsified documents to the same effect.

According to court documents, Fai accepted the transfer of such money to the KAC from the ISI and the government of Pakistan through his co-defendant Zaheer Ahmad and middlemen. Ahmad later reimbursed these donors for their purported donations to the KAC, the DOJ added.

Sounding triumphant after Friday’s sentencing U.S. Attorney MacBride said, “Mr. Fai spent 20 years operating the Kashmiri American Council as a front for Pakistani intelligence... He lied to the Justice Department, the IRS and many political leaders throughout the U.S. as he pushed the ISI’s propaganda on Kashmir.” Back in December Fai had pleaded guilty to both counts of criminal information.

The sentencing comes at a sensitive time for U.S.-Pakistan relations, even as Islamabad reviews its ties with Washington in the wake of a downward spiral in bilateral relations that accelerated since last year’s killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. marines on Pakistani soil.

Matters took a turn for the worse in November, when shooting by NATO led to the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in Mohmand near the Afghan border. After that episode Pakistan closed down a vital NATO supply route and denied the U.S. any further access to an important air base in Shamsi in Baluchistan. Meanwhile drone strikes through most of last year led to growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

The Fai case outcome, while it may not fuel the flames of mistrust and suspicion between the two nations on the same scale, will nevertheless be viewed as yet another stumbling block on the path to the “reset” in relations that some on either side of the equation are seeking to achieve.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 4:45:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/fai-sentenced-to-two-years-after-admitting-links-to-isi/article3263488.ece

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