BETIM KAZIU’S CASE
THE CASE OF BETIM KAZIU
On Thursday 07/07/2011, a Brooklyn-born man Betim Kaziu , 23, was convicted of terror charges in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, for traveling to the Middle East to avenge abuse of Muslims in a trial that featured the testimony of a would-be terrorist and childhood friend of the defendant Sulejah Hadzovic, who became a government cooperator.
The jury deliberated less than four hours before finding Betim Kaziu guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization, conspiracy to commit murder and other charges.
Prosecutors alleged that Betim Kaziu, 23, and star witness Sulejah Hadzovic – two U.S.-born sons of Islamic immigrants from the former Yugoslavia who met in sixth grade. By 2008 they pursued a growing interest in radical Islam and began searching the Internet for opportunities to take up arms against troops. They traveled together to Cairo in 02/2009 in hopes of taking up arms against U.S. troops.
“We were upset at what was happening in places like Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, how they were humiliating and torturing Muslims there,” Sulejah Hadzovic testified. “It’s what ultimately made us want to go and fight in jihad.” He also told jurors he grew to believe that he could no longer live in the USA because “being a Muslim, we’re stereotyped and somebody sees somebody with a beard, they automatically label him a terrorist.”
Sulejah Hadzovic, 21, said that while they were in Egypt the pair attended school, sought to obtain AK-47s and considered whether to take up arms in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine or Somalia.
But Sulejah Hadzovic said he began to waver after hearing President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009 that extended a hand of friendship to Islam. Betim Kaziu, he said, told him: “Don’t let (the speech) fool you. It’s like throwing sand in your eyes to blind you from the truth.”
Defying his friend, Sulejah Hadzovic returned to New York. About three week later, federal authorities approached him and demanded answers about his travels. He eventually agreed to plead guilty and cooperate to avoid charges carrying a potential life sentence. He faces a maximum 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors say that once on his own, Betim Kaziu tried, but failed, to join Al Qaeda groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. He eventually made his way to Kosovo. On the Albanian coast, he recorded a video that a prosecutor described as “his goodbye, contemplating how he would soon depart for paradise – a reward for those who die a martyr,” and had bought a plane ticket to Pakistan. But authorities said he was captured by local authorities in mid 08/2009 before he could make the trip. Betim Kaziu was sent back to USA in late 09/2009.
The defense claimed the alleged martyr video and other home videos shot by Betim Kaziu were made in jest. His lawyers also argued that most of evidence against their client was widely distributed anti-American propaganda.
On 03/03/2012 Betim Kaziu was sentenced to 27 years in prison for plotting to kill US soldiers and attempting to provide material support to al-Shabab. Betim Kaziu told U.S. District Judge John Gleason before hearing the sentence in federal court in Brooklyn. “I completely regret what I did in that phase of my life.”
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