ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) – A judge on Friday acquitted a man charged in an alleged conspiracy to aid the Taliban and tossed out some of the allegations against three other men accused in the case.

The judge dismissed all charges against Caliph Basha ibn Abdur-Raheem, 29, after the prosecution rested its case, saying there was little evidence in the two-week trial to link him to the conspiracy in any meaningful way.

The government alleged that Abdur-Raheem was part of a network that used the paintball games as a means to join Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Islamic organization that has since been labeled as terrorist by the U.S. government.

“He does ascribe to perhaps a more radical form of Islam,” U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said. “He did go and participate in paintball … but playing paintball itself is not an illegal activity.”

Lashkar seeks to drive India from disputed Kashmir. Engaging in a military expedition against India would violate the federal Neutrality Act.

The government further alleged that the group’s aims took a hostile turn against the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, contending that the group’s religious leader told the men Islam required them to defend the Taliban, and that the U.S. military was a legitimate target of holy war.

The defendants contend the paintball was merely a way for the men to fulfill their religious duties to learn self-defense and that they never intended to fight against the United States.

Masoud Khan, who faces the most serious charge, is still accused of conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to provide support to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.

In addition to dismissing all charges against Abdur-Raheem, the judge threw out several conspiracy and firearms charges against Seifullah Chapman and Hammad Abdur-Raheem and one lesser count against Khan. All four men are U.S. citizens from the Washington suburbs.

Abdur-Raheem’s mother wept when Brinkema announced her ruling. He smiled and shook hands with his co-defendants before walking out of the courtroom a free man.

“I knew I didn’t do anything,” Abdur-Raheem said. “I always try do to everything by the law.”

Six others charged in the conspiracy have already pleaded guilty to various charges, and many testified for the prosecution.

All four defendants waived their right to a jury trial.

The trial continues against the other three defendants, with the defense to begin its case later Friday.

AP-ES-02-20-04 1642EST



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