Alleged terrorists accused of raising money, recruiting fighters, and gathering military equipment for the Taliban and other terrorist groups faced a federal judge in U.S. District Court in New Haven Saturday.
After a lengthy legal battle, 38 year old Babar Ahmad and 33 year old Syed Talha Ahsan arrived on US soil for the first time to answer to terrorism-related charges.
"You have terrorism that was occurring on a global scale with a solid link electronic link to Connecticut,” said Quinnipiac Law professor and former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Meyer.
According to the indictment against them, both men allegedly used a website called Azzam.com to solicit cash and enlist recruits for Jihad. Meyer said Ahmad and Ahsan are being tried in Connecticut because authorities claimed their alleged website was hosted here.
The men fought extradition from Great Britain for a number of years after being indicted by two separate grand juries in the US.
"This is a very unusual case,” said Meyer.
The men were flown into an undisclosed location at 2am on Saturday. By 8 o’clock in the morning, they were in prison jumpsuits, cuffed and escorted into court.
Ahsan sported a long beard, his hair was knotted into a bun, and he had a scar on the right side of his face. Ahmad was balding and had gray in his hair and beard.
Both men pled not guilty to the charges against them.
For everyday Americans, this case is a reminder of the dangers that still lurk and home and abroad.
"They should be brought to justice here in America,” said one man.
"We have to decide whether we're going to live in freedom or live in fear, added another.
If convicted, both men face life in federal prison. The judge set a tentative trial date in December, but it’s so early in the judicial process that date will likely change.