Seven men and five women from Central Virginia decided the fate of Taliban operative Irek Hamidullin Friday, convicting the enemy combatant on all 15 criminal counts.
Hamidullin is the first foreign fighter captured in Afghanistan to face trial in the United States. The government accused the former Soviet tank commander of conspiring to attack American helicopters in Khost Province, Afghanistan.
The defense told members of the jury Hamidullin exaggerated statements recorded by a secret FBI camera, and intended to attack corrupt Afghan Border Patrol agents, not Americans.
Both prosecutors and the defense showed jurors the moment U.S. service members captured Hamidullin on the battlefield in 2009, as he writhed in pain with his hands behind his head.
“He conveyed in that moment he was not out to kill Americans,” said Assistant Federal Public Defender Paul G. Gill. “It was only later that he changed his story.”
A hidden camera concealed in a coffee cup captured Hamidullin telling an FBI special agent incriminating details about an attack on an Afghan border base, and expecting American helicopters to show up within 20 minutes.
The defense argued Hamidullin wanted to go to prison in America where he would remain safe, rather than being killed in Afghanistan or released back to his native Russia.
It was an argument prosecutors categorically rejected.
“He delivered confident, consistent and corroborated confessions,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Gill. “It was [an attack] for jihadi religious purposes.”
The government also pointed to a 200-pound anti-aircraft gun found on the battlefield, arguing Hamidullin’s 30 fighters brought the heavy artillery machine gun, known as a DShK, to shoot down American helicopters.
“There can be no doubt… marching miles and miles across the Afghan border, the defendant took the steps [to plan the attack],” Mike Gill said. “There is no way they didn't know the U.S. would respond. You heard it in his confessions.”
Hamidullin faced a 15 count indictment and could be sentenced to life in prison when he returns to Richmond's U.S. District Courthouse Nov. 6, 2015. Jurors began their deliberations just after 12:30 p.m. and reached a verdict before 9 p.m. Friday.