Reuters.com NEWS

LAHORE, Pakistan — Five Americans sentenced to 10 years in jail by a Pakistani court for waging war against the state and funding a terrorist group appealed their convictions on Monday, their lawyer said.

The five, aged 19 to 25, were convicted by an anti-terrorism court in a prison in the eastern city of Sargodha last week after being on trial since March.

Defence lawyer Hassan Katchela told AFP that the appeal had been filed in the Lahore High Court seeking the acquittal of the five Americans, who were of Egyptian, Eritrean, Pakistani and Yemeni descent.

Umar Farooq, Waqar Hussain, Rami Zamzam, Ahmad Abdullah Mini and Amman Hassan Yammer were arrested in December and had faced a maximum punishment of life in prison.

The five were each convicted last Thursday on two charges and handed concurrent sentences of 10 and five years in prison and fined 70,000 rupees (820 dollars) after a mostly secret trial.

Both the defence and the prosecution had vowed to appeal after the verdict, with prosecutors seeking increased prison sentences of 20 years.

Pakistani prosecution officials said the young men had planned to travel to neighbouring Afghanistan and join up with Taliban-led militants fighting US and NATO troops.

The defendants pleaded their innocence, saying they had come to Pakistan to attend a wedding and wanted to travel on to Afghanistan to do humanitarian work.

They accused the FBI and Pakistani police of torture, but the authorities have flatly denied any ill-treatment.

Their sentencing came just days after Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to an attempted car bombing in Times Square, warning a New York courtroom of more attacks on the United States until it leaves Muslim lands.

Investigators claimed that the Sargodha five planned to travel to South Waziristan, a training ground for Islamist militants in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt and a region targeted by a major military operation last year.

Although the Pakistani government is a close ally in the US war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the country is gripped by widespread anti-Americanism and many blame deteriorating security on the alliance.