WASHINGTON - A US court Friday sentenced to two years in prison Kashmiri leader Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai who prosecutors said conducted a ‘decades-long’ lobbying effort with funds from the Pakistani intelligence agency to influence US policy on the Kashmir dispute.

Fai’s lawyer, Nina Ginsberg, called the sentence ‘unnecessarily harsh’. But Dr Fai, in his plea bargain arrangement, had waived his right to appeal. Fai, 62, a US citizen, pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy and tax violations dating back to 1990 for a scheme to conceal some $3.5 million that came from Pakistan to fund his lobbying efforts over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

US District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria, Virginia, handed down the prison sentence for Fai, to be followed by three years of probation. Prosecutors had urged the judge to sentence him to four years in prison while Fai argued he should be sentenced to home confinement.

Fai served as the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council, a nonprofit organisation run by Kashmiris and funded by Americans.

But US authorities have said some of the money came from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency or ISI, and that he failed to register as an agent of a foreign government as required under US law.

“Syed Fai is today being held accountable for his role in a decades-long scheme to conceal the fact that the government of Pakistan was secretly funding his efforts to influence US policy on Kashmir,” said Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The Pakistani government has denied any knowledge of Fai’s activities. Fai’s lawyer said that Dr Fai would self-surrender after the graduation of his daughter on June 25.

Appreciating his life-long commitment to the Kashmir cause, the Judge told Fai that he can continue to work for the cause from the prison - like write articles and do conference calls.

About 50 people were inside the courtroom - mostly his friends and family members. The government attorney was Gordon Kromberg.

After listening from both sides and also for a few minutes from Fai himself, the judge said: “Sentencing is necessary” even though he has done moving things on behalf of people of Kashmir.

“I do not think you are ready to believe that by your acts you did a great harm to the US, you ignored that even after FBI brought this to your notice,” Judge told Fai.

“You participated in a conspiracy to defraud the US and completely deceive the IRS. You knew Pakistan and the ISI was paying you in a manner because your actions would be consistent with theirs and you would represent their voice and you were willing to do so,” the judge said.

“You were willing to defraud the IRS, willing to be allowed being given money by the Straw Donors to fund the Kashmir American Council - to cover up the source of your funding and to engage with the Pakistani intelligence agency.”

“The money that you received also allowed you to lead a comfortable life in the US, raise your kids and help the cause of Kashmir.

“It’s troubling” that despite being approached by the US Government in March 2007 and 2010 you did not admit the role that Pakistan government and the ISI was playing in the KAC,” the judge said.

Fai said that he did not follow the Pakistani line while espoused the cause of Kashmir freedom. “Words possibly can’t define the damage that I have done to my beautiful family and friends in the US and the damage that I have done to the Kashmir cause,” Fai told the court.

“I never intended to harm anybody in the world, never intended to harm the US. My sole motivation was to work for the people of Kashmir and their right of self-determination,” he added.

“I know the road to freedom is long but there is no short-cut,” he added. Fai said he has written 25 articles proposing that the best solution to the Kashmir problem was independence of Kashmir.

Judge commented: “I do not doubt your love for people of Kashmir” and then he went on to pronounce the judgement.