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US appeals panel affirms Va. khat convictions

Friday - 11/15/2013, 4:31am  ET

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A federal appeals court in Virginia has affirmed the convictions of 13 people who smuggled the illegal African drug khat (COT) into the U.S.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond issued the ruling Thursday in the appeal of the defendants, all originally from Somalia or Yemen. They were convicted last year in northern Virginia of smuggling the leaf, which produces a mild high.

The appeal was based on the defendants' claim that a judge erred when he delivered jury instructions.

Attorneys for the 13 also argued that they were not aware that an alkaloid in khat that produces the high is a controlled substance in the U.S.

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