US charges suspected Taliban ally in heroin ring

Published: Saturday, May 12, 2007, 5:36 [IST]
 

NEW YORK, May 11 (Reuters) An Afghan man and suspected Taliban ally appeared in U.S. federal court in Manhattan on Friday to face charges of trafficking million worth of heroin, prosecutors said.

Mohammad Essa was first arrested in Afghanistan in December 2006 and extradited in April, when he pleaded not guilty. The U.S. Attorney's Office and Drug Enforcement Administration announced his detention yesterday after he appeared at a pre-trial hearing.

''He maintains his innocence to the charges,'' Essa's lawyer Michael Hueston said after the hearing.

Prosecutors allege Essa was a partner in heroin trafficking organization in Afghanistan and Pakistan headed by Baz Mohammad, who was extradited to the United States in 2005.

Mohammad pleaded guilty in July 2006 of conspiring to import 25 million dollars worth of heroin and could face a prison term of 15 to 20 years.

The organization provided financial support to Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers in exchange for their protection of opium crops, heroin laboratories and drug trafficking routes, Essa's indictment said.

Between 1990 and 2005, the organization transported hundreds of kilograms of heroin out of Afghanistan and Pakistan and controlled opium fields in Afghanistan, using laboratories to process the opium to heroin, the indictment said.

Reuters HK VP0440


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