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Pakistan case gives glimpse into US terror suspect

Nearly two decades ago, an Islamic court sentenced Daniel Patrick Boyd to lose a hand and foot as punishment for robbing a bank in Pakistan's rough-and-tumble northwest.

world Updated: Jul 30, 2009 13:50 IST

Nearly two decades ago, an Islamic court sentenced Daniel Patrick Boyd to lose a hand and foot as punishment for robbing a bank in Pakistan's rough-and-tumble northwest.

An appeals court tossed out the ruling, but the brush with Shariah law did not shake Boyd's Muslim faith. Today, U.S. officials accuse the 39-year-old North Carolina resident of plotting to wage holy war.

Police and court records from the early 1990s offer a glimpse into the unusual life of Boyd, by then already a convert to an extreme brand of Islam.

Those who attended the 1991 trial in this dusty, chaotic city remember a well-behaved, composed young man who nonetheless was unwilling to submit to the harsh ruling. His wife said at the time that she and her husband considered America a nation of infidels. His mother, Pat Saddler, told reporters at the time that Boyd came to Pakistan in October 1989 and worked as a mechanic helping Afghan refugees. His brother Charles joined him in Pakistan later, working as an engineer, she said.

In June 1991, the manager of the United Bank in a Peshawar suburb reported to police that two men, one with "a golden beard" and the other with "a beak-like nose," robbed his establishment of $3,200, opening fire with pistols as they fled, according to a police report. Soon, Boyd and his brother, both Muslim converts, were arrested.

Allegations also surfaced that the two carried identification cards indicating membership in the Afghan militant group Hezb-e-Islami, which maintained offices in northwestern Pakistan. At the time in Pakistan, courts applying Islamic law that often handed down harsh sentences but tended to be overturned on appeal handled many such cases.

According to court records, the case against the brothers hinged on witness accounts as well as money, a pistol and bullets discovered during a search of Daniel Boyd's home _ and his disputed confession. Boyd, however, claimed that a bank employee who had made inappropriate advances toward his wife and tried to pilfer money from his family set him up.

Nearly 20 years on, Daniel Boyd was arrested again this week _ this time in the U.S. on charges of plotting terror attacks. The federal indictment names the North Carolina resident as the ringleader of a group that was preparing for "violent jihad" with military-style training.

Pakistani officials could not immediately be reached to answer questions on whether the U.S. has been in touch with them about the Boyd case.

Accounts from his time in Pakistani court indicate that Daniel Boyd _ who went by the Muslim name Saifullah, or "Sword of God" _ was usually composed, but at one point reacted angrily when photographers tried to take his picture, according to an Associated Press reporter who covered the case.

The two brothers wore the traditional local dress _ long shirts and baggy pants _ while in court.

During their time in custody, the men prayed five times a day and received frequent visits from their wives, who dressed in all-encompassing veils in line with strict interpretations of the religion, said former jail superintendent Inshah Mohammad Durrani. In September 1991, the court sentenced the two men to have their right hands and left feet amputated, serve prison terms and pay fines.

The Boyds were the first foreigners to be convicted and sentenced by the special Islamic courts charged with handling so-called "heinous" crimes, according to news reports at the time. As the sentence was handed down, Daniel Boyd shouted, "This isn't an Islamic court. It's a court of infidels!" After their convictions, the two brothers worked in the jail factory, making carpets and chairs, Durrani said. In October 1991, an appeals panel overturned the convictions. As the brothers left the jail, they shouted "God Is Great!" and Daniel Boyd later said, "The truth has finally come out."

Throughout the ordeal, "they never complained and never gave us a chance to be rude to them," Durrani, the retired jail official said. "When their appeal was granted, they were happy. I remember they warmly embraced me and met other jail staff. Daniel sought an apology if they had done anything wrong. They were good people."