A U.S. judge has ordered that an Islamic scholar serving a life sentence for soliciting treason after the 9/11 attacks be released from custody while he pursues his appeal.
The Associated Press reports that Ali Al-Timimi was released because of concerns he is susceptible to coronavirus and because of a recent Supreme Court case that could invalidate several counts on which he was convicted in 2005.
The Supreme Court case has resulted in successful appeals across the country, including by several members of a group linked to Al-Timimi.
Al-Timimi, from Washington D.C., has been imprisoned for the past 15 years after prosecutors said he used his influence to steer a group of young men to try to join up with the Taliban.
Several of his followers received training from Lashkar-E-Taiba in Pakistan but none ever joined the Taliban.
Al-Timimi argued that prosecutors overstated his influence with those who travelled to Pakistan, and that he was punished for “unpopular speech” rather than criminal conduct.
Timimi preached that the 9/11 attacks portended a global holy war between Muslims and non-believers. At his trial, several of his followers testified that Al-Timimi told them in a secret meeting just days after the Sept. 11 attacks that able-bodied Muslims had an obligation to defend the Taliban if they were able to do so.
But Jonathan Turley, Tamimi’s lawyer, has argued that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that would have pointed to Al-Timimi’s innocence.
In particular, he has alleged that the government used Anwar al-Awlaki as an informant, and that al-Awlaki tried unsuccessfully to lure Al-Timimi into illegal conduct as part of a government sting.
Al-Awlaki later left the U.S. and became a leader in al-Qaeda before he was killed in a U.S. drone strike.
On the other hand, prosecutors have argued consistently that there is no evidence related to al-Awlaki to which Al-Timimi’s lawyers would have been entitled.