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Uzbek-Born Man Charged In New York Killings Touts Islamic State


Sayfullo Saipov as seen in a courtroom sketch.

An Uzbek immigrant who was charged with mowing down and killing eight people with a truck in New York City has spoken out about the Islamic State (IS) extremist group at a court hearing.

Despite a warning from the judge that what he said could be used against him, Sayfullo Saipov on June 22 told the court through an interpreter that "the judgments that are made here are not important for me. They are not Allah's judgments."

"The Islamic State, in order to impose Shari'a (Islamic law) on Earth, is leading a war," he said. The war is not to gain land or oil, he said, but to "impose Shari'a on Earth.”

Saipov's unusual outburst lasted about 10 minutes. He said would have more to say “in the future.”

Saipov has previously told law enforcement agents that he was inspired by IS to rent a truck last October and use it to kill pedestrians on a bike path only blocks away from where New York's Twin Towers once stood.

The extremist group days after the attack, on October 31, claimed Saipov as a "soldier of the caliphate."

Because his remarks in court could be interpreted as conceding guilt only minutes after Saipov pled not guilty to murder charges through his lawyer, U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick interrupted Saipov to read him his constitutional rights, including that anything he said in court could be used against him in his trial.

"I understand you, but I' m not worried about that at all," said Saipov, who was born in Uzbekistan but immigrated to the United States and became a U.S. citizen.

Saipov spoke after the court had set an October 7, 2019, date for his trial.

While Saipov was speaking, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Houle interrupted to say the prosecution objected to the judge letting him make such a statement in court.

The judge said he believed Saipov was nearing the end of his remarks and let him finish before warning him that he would not likely be allowed to speak out in court again the same way.

Saipov, though, would be given a chance to testify if his case proceeds to trial and, if convicted, could speak at sentencing, the judge said.

Prosecutors had asked for an April 2019 trial date, with Houle saying the families of the dead and the more than a dozen people who were injured deserve a "prompt and firm trial date."

Defense lawyers have said Saipov is prepared to plead guity if the government agrees to giving him a life sentence in prison rather than the death penalty. Prosecutors said they still have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

U.S. President Donald Trump called for Saipov to be executed shortly after the attack, which he has cited in seeking to end a lottery program for immigrants that Saipov used to gain his U.S. citizenship.

David Patton, a lawyer for Saipov, said if prosecutors seek the death penalty, he will need extra time to prepare the case, gathering information from overseas as well as in the United States.

Before the attack, Saipov had lived for several years in the United States working as a professional driver after arriving from Uzbekistan in 2010.

Saipov's family told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that he did not have radical views before he moved to the United States, and appeared to have been radicalized through online sources.

A defense attorney on June 22 said Saipov has had only telephone contact with his mother, father, and sister in Uzbekistan since his arrest because they cannot get approval to travel to the United States.

Saipov also has a wife and three children.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and The New York Times
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