Ga. man sentenced to 17 years for aiding terror groups, sending video of US landmarks abroadBy Greg Bluestein, AP
Monday, December 14, 2009
Ga. man sentenced to 17 years in terror case
ATLANTA — A Georgia man was sentenced to 17 years in prison Monday for conspiring to aid terrorists by sending homemade videos of Washington landmarks overseas and trying to meet with a terror group in Bangladesh.
Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 23, faced up to 60 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of four terror-related charges in August. Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 20 years at the hearing Monday, but U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey said a term of three years less was fair.
Sadequee’s friend, 25-year-old Syed Haris Ahmed, faces 15 years in prison when he’s sentenced Monday afternoon for conspiring to support terrorist groups.
The earlier sentencing came after a bizarre hearing in which Sadequee, who represented himself, gave a rambling 50-minute sermon about “the nature of Islam.” As the judge and prosecutors patiently listened, Sadequee broke into prayer and melodic chants several times and recited Quran passages in Arabic and English.
“I have not and will not request for any sentence because it does not matter to me,” he said, adding: “I submit to no one’s authority but the authority of God.”
Duffey, in a stern speech from the bench, said that Sadequee acted with cold calculation and never showed remorse for his actions.
“You have every right to reject our country and its values and to openly criticize it,” he said. “But what we don’t allow is to engage in crimes that put others at risk. And this is what you’re being held accountable to today.”
Sadequee, who was wearing a white skullcap, sat quietly with his eyes downcast as his sentence was read. He was also sentenced to 30 years in supervised release and a $400 fine.
Prosecutors say Sadequee and Ahmed, who are both U.S. citizens, never posed an imminent threat to the U.S. but took concrete steps to help terrorists when they sent choppy videos of landmarks to suspected terrorists overseas. Sadequee was also accused of trying to aid a Pakistani-based terror group while on a trip to Bangladesh in 2005.
Authorities said Sadequee first sought to join the Taliban in December 2001 and that he spent the next few years meeting other supporters as he delved deeper into “radical” online forums devoted to violent jihad.
One was Ahmed, a former Georgia Tech student who quickly became friends with Sadequee. Authorities say the two took a bus to Toronto in March 2005 and met with at least three other subjects of a federal investigation to discuss possible attack targets.
A month later, the pair drove Ahmed’s pickup truck to Washington and shot 62 clips of sites including the U.S. Capitol, a fuel depot and a Masonic Temple in northern Virginia, authorities said.
One of the videos, which was played for jurors at both men’s trials, showed the two driving by the Pentagon as Sadequee said: “This is where our brothers attacked the Pentagon.”
In separate trials, both Sadequee and Ahmed sought to portray their online discussions about jihad as empty talk. Sadequee said he never considered following through on the boastful chatter.
“We were immature young guys who had imaginations running wild,” Sadequee told jurors in his closing arguments in August. “But I was not then, and am not now, a terrorist.”
A federal jury, though, agreed his actions were serious. Sadequee was found guilty in August of four charges, including providing material support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Federal authorities have said the two were dangerous terrorist wannabes who needed to be stopped before they took action.
“The goal is to catch a terrorist before he flies a plane into the building, to stop a terrorist before he gets too far,” Robert McBurney, an assistant U.S. attorney, said previously. “No government is obligated to wait until the fuse is lit.”
Tags: Arrests, Atlanta, Georgia, North America, Terrorism, United States