A federal judge in northern Virginia ruled that four men accused of having links to a Kashmir terrorist group should be freed pending trial. Magistrate T. Rawles Jones Jr. said he was not convinced that the men posed a danger to the community or a risk of fleeing the Washington, D.C., area if they were released. The New York Times reports that he raised questions about the strength of the government’s case against them. The men remain in custody, pending appeals by prosecutors. The government persuaded another judge to keep a fifth defendant in custody despite an order that he, too, be freed.
The five men, and six others, were indicted last week on terrorism-related and weapons charges for allegedly organizing a paramilitary training group in the Washington area in support of a “jihad network” committed to driving India out of Kashmir. The men, nine of whom are United States citizens, depict themselves as victims of anti-Muslim harassment. Defense lawyers accused the Justice Department of exploiting their Islamic backgrounds and their passion for engaging in paintball war games in rural Virginia to portray the men unfairly as terrorists.
Judge Jones said the government’s argument about the danger posed by one of the defendants “simply does not hold water.” He ordered the four men released under electronic monitoring to ensure they cannot flee the area. He did not require them to post financial bond.