By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man was convicted on Thursday on charges of attempting to join a foreign terrorist organization with links to al Qaeda, in hopes of killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.
A federal jury in Brooklyn returned guilty verdicts on all four counts against Betim Kaziu, 23, hours after deliberations began Thursday morning. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Attorneys for both the United States and Kaziu were not immediately available for comment.
Kaziu was arrested in August 2009 in Kosovo, where prosecutors said he was seeking to join up with al Shabbab, a militant insurgency group linked to al Qaeda and designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.
He was indicted by federal prosecutors in September 2009 on charges including conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and attempts to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
During the five-day trial, Kaziu's former co-conspirator and childhood friend, Sulejmah Hadzovic, took the stand to testify that Kaziu had persuaded him to travel to Cairo in early 2009, where they attempted to find weapons and contact foreign militant groups targeting the United States.
They planned to fight U.S. troops in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, according to the testimony.
The two watched militant training videos and communiques from top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Hadzovic said. Prosecutors played clips from a bin Laden video found on Kaziu's computer and showed an avatar from his MySpace page that pictured an Islamic holy warrior brandishing a sword.
Kaziu's attorneys, David Stern and Henry Steinglass, attempted to cast Kaziu's statements, videos and communications as talk, not threats, coming from a young man swayed by radicalized propaganda.
Hadzovic eventually returned home, where he was arrested by FBI agents. He pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy and is under house arrest.
The case is U.S. v. Kaziu, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 09-660.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Paul Simao)