U.S. prosecutors seek to halt pretrial release of Uzbek terror suspect

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[June 28, 2017]  By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors appealed against a U.S. judge's order on Tuesday allowing the release of a Colorado man held for more than five years while awaiting trial on charges of providing support to a suspected Islamist group in his native Uzbekistan.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver filed an emergency motion with the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the release of Jamshid Muhtorov.

The motion came four days after U.S. District Judge John Kane granted a motion by Muhtorov for his release pending his trial, which is set for early next year.

Muhtorov argued he should be given bail after repeated delays in the case violated his right to a speedy trial.

In their appeal, prosecutors said Muhtorov was "plainly a threat to the public and others," and also posed a flight risk.

Muhtorov, 40, is accused of trying to smuggle smart phones and other electronic equipment to the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), a Pakistan-based extremist group that opposes secular rule in Uzbekistan and seeks to install a government based on Islamic law.

He is not a U.S. citizen but has legal immigration status as a political refugee from Uzbekistan, prosecutors said. Muhtorov has lived in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

He was arrested in January 2012 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as he was attempting to board an overseas flight, according to an FBI arrest warrant affidavit.

The defendant had pledged allegiance to the IJU and promised to procure cash and satellite equipment for the group, prosecutors said.

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"Given Muhtorov's expressed desire to join the IJU and forward its mission of terrorism, he is also plainly a threat to the public and others under any form of release," the government's appellate motion said.

In agreeing to set bond conditions, Judge Kane said that, while Muhtorov's purported jihadist views are "abhorrent," he will have already spent six years in prison by the time he goes on trial, about the same amount of time he would likely serve if convicted. He faces a maximum 15 years in prison if convicted.

The judge cited Muhtorov's family ties in Colorado and evidence that suggests his "bark was more serious than his bite."

No one was killed or wounded in the plot, which was thwarted.

A gag order imposed by Kane prohibits lawyers from either side from discussing the case outside a courtroom.

Muhtorov's lawyers had not filed a reply to the government's motion by Tuesday evening, and it was unclear when the appellate court would rule.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in DENVER; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Paul Tait)

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