ATLANTA (AP) – A 23-year-old Georgia man was convicted Wednesday of aiding terrorist groups by sending videotapes of U.S. landmarks overseas and plotting to support “violent jihad” after a federal jury rejected his arguments that it was empty talk.

The jury found Ehsanul Islam Sadequee guilty of all four charges he faced after about five hours of deliberations. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison and his sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 15.

Authorities say Sadequee never posed an imminent threat to the U.S, but he took concrete steps to bolster terrorists when he sent the videos overseas and tried to aid a Pakistani-based terror group while on a trip to Bangladesh.

Sadequee, who stared silently as the verdict was read, is the second Georgia terror suspect to be convicted in the last two months. A judge convicted Sadequee’s friend, Syed Haris Ahmed, in June on one count of conspiring to support terrorism in the U.S. and abroad.

Sadequee’s relatives, who regularly packed the courtroom during the weeklong trial, said the conviction was an example of overzealous prosecution in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Sadequee’s sister Sonali said she was “absolutely disappointed” by the jury’s decision.

“What’s most frustrating to see that the post-Sept. 11 climate, even though Obama has communicated there’s going to be a shift, it hasn’t really gone down to the general understanding of the community and social attitudes,” she said.

But federal authorities say it was a reminder that those who actively seek to aid terror groups may be lurking within the U.S. They said they had little choice but to snuff out a potential plot before it came to fruition.

“We can wait until something happens, or gets close to happening,” U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said. “But I think we all learned on Sept. 11, 2001, not to do that.”

Sadequee, who represented himself at trial, dismissed his online discussions about jihad as boastful chatter from a group of young men “who type faster than they think.” He said he never considered following through on it.

“We were immature young guys who had imaginations running wild,” Sadequee told jurors in his closing arguments Tuesday. “But I was not then, and am not now, a terrorist.”

Prosecutors, however, depicted Sadequee as a dangerous terrorist wannabe who needed to be stopped before he took action. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney said authorities had “overwhelming” evidence that Sadequee took concrete steps to aid terror organizations.

“The goal is to catch a terrorist before he flies a plane into the building, to stop a terrorist before he gets too far,” McBurney said. “No government is obligated to wait until the fuse is lit.”

Authorities said Sadequee first sought to join the Taliban in December 2001 and that he spent the next few years meeting other supporters as he delved deeper into “radical” online forums devoted to violent jihad.

One was Ahmed, a former Georgia Tech student who faces a 15-year-prison sentence. Authorities say the two took a bus to Toronto in March 2005 and met with at least three other subjects of a federal investigation to discuss possible attack targets.

A month later, the pair drove Ahmed’s pickup truck to Washington and shot 62 choppy clips of U.S. landmarks such as the U.S. Capitol and lesser-known sites, including a fuel depot and a Masonic Temple in northern Virginia, authorities said.

One of the videos, which was played for jurors last week, showed the two driving by the Pentagon as Sadequee said: “This is where our brothers attacked the Pentagon.”

Sadequee sent at least two of the clips to an overseas contact days after he returned, authorities said, disguising them as “jimmy’s 13th birthday party” and “volleyball contest.”

McBurney told jurors the videos were designed to send a chilling message: “We are in your backyard.” But Sadequee countered: “Any real terrorist would probably go to Google Earth to see live images.”

Sadequee, who is originally from Virginia and has family in the Atlanta area, then traveled to Bangladesh in August 2005, where he soon got married. Authorities said he made the trip with a more fiendish mission in mind: To try to link up with terror groups.

They say he communicated with Ahmed and other suspected terrorists, including Mirsad Bektasevic, a Balkan-born Swede who was convicted in 2007 of planning to blow up a European target to force the pullout of foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Attorney Don Samuel, who was first appointed to represent Sadequee and offered him advice throughout the trial, said the likely turning point for jurors was seeing videos of bomb belts and explosives found when Bektasevic was arrested.

“Jurors probably thought seeing that it was more than just talk, even though for Shifa it was,” he said, using Sadequee’s nickname. “It changed the whole atmosphere of the trial.”

The verdict marked the end of an often bewildering six days of testimony as Sadequee discovered the perils of representing himself in federal court.

“It’s not as easy as you see in ‘Law & Order,'” he told jurors on Tuesday.

He asked witnesses about the relationship between Superman and the antichrist and probed them on the role of Freemasons. He also urged FBI agents to interpret his e-mail statements, and they gladly obliged.

The members of the jury – a panel of nine men and three women – seemed relieved the trial was over. One female juror who would not give her name said she was ready to get back to her life.

“We’re thankful justice has been served,” she said.


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