Abid Naseer Receives 40-Year Sentence for Bomb Plot - New York Times

A member of Al Qaeda who plotted, but did not carry out, a car bombing of a shopping center in Manchester, England, was sentenced on Tuesday to 40 years in prison.

The man, Abid Naseer, 29, who was prosecuted in New York, had faced a possible life sentence.

I hope you remember that an American court gave you a lifesaver, Judge Raymond J. Dearie of Federal District Court in Brooklyn said as he imposed the sentence.

Mr. Naseer, a middle-class Pakistani and a skilled cricket player, joined Al Qaeda as an adult, according to trial testimony and evidence. He moved to Manchester and was arrested there by British authorities in 2009. The Qaeda scheme he was part of, according to the authorities, included the attack on the shopping center, along with coordinated attacks on the New York City subway system and a Danish newspaper.

The British authorities released him because of a lack of evidence. He was indicted by federal authorities in Brooklyn in 2010 and was extradited to New York in 2013.

Mr. Naseer was prosecuted in the United States based on a provision in a federal antiterrorism law that allows the Justice Department to prosecute foreigners even when the conduct in question occurred abroad.

Mr. Naseer, who represented himself at trial, was convicted in March of supporting terrorism and conspiring with Al Qaeda.

While he lacked the skills of a trained lawyer, Mr. Naseer was attentive, calm and organized during the trial.

Consider your own observations of Mr. Naseer during trial and ask if this is a man whos really beyond redemption, James E. Neuman, Mr. Naseers court-appointed legal adviser, said.

Hes always been courteous and respectful, Judge Dearie replied. When he decided to represent himself, I anticipated a very different situation than what actually occurred. He abided by the courts orders and instructions.

But Judge Dearie expressed frustration that Mr. Naseer, with his loving upbringing, had become involved in terrorism.

Letters to Judge Dearie from friends and relatives of Mr. Naseer described a man brought up in a noble and educated family, as one writer put it.

His father, Nasrullah Jan, a government contractor in Pakistan, wrote that he had six children, including a business executive, a doctor and a student. As for Mr. Naseer, he wrote: My son is a gentle man and a polite person. During any supervision he never indulged in antisocial or criminal activities.

Hamza Khan Shinwari, a Manchester resident who said he was a roommate of Mr. Naseers, described him as humble and honest, adding that Mr. Naseer did not seem strange to me in any sense.

I found him to be a very delightful person who is always respectful to others, Mr. Shinwari wrote.

A former girlfriend, who signed her letter only as Wafa, praised his family as open-minded, very friendly and loving. She continued, Abid Naseer has been brought up by his parents who taught him to love and care.

How you go from that to this, Judge Dearie said, as much as I searched to try to understand, I dont.

Arguing for a life sentence, Zainab Ahmad, an assistant United States attorney, said the fact that Mr. Naseer was stopped from carrying out an attack should not matter.

It is incumbent upon us to do the difficult and unpleasant task of imagining what would have happened had the defendant gone unstopped, she said. The defendant has given us no reason to hope. There is nothing in the record to suggest that he is any less committed to violence in the name of religion than he was on the day he was arrested.

Mr. Naseer told the judge on Tuesday that he was committed to learning and education. He wants to obtain a masters degree in computing, start a family and study human physiology and sports science, he said. Dear judge, it is true I have spent most of my life in search of studies and not extremism and fundamentalism, he said. Im not, nor have I been, a career criminal.

I know youre not, Judge Dearie replied. Youre a terrorist.

Mr. Neuman, the defendants legal adviser, said after the sentencing that he thought 40 years was excessive. In court, he argued that the fact that Mr. Naseer had not carried out a plot should count in his favor.

Terrorism crimes do not always, or even usually, result in sentences of life, Mr. Neuman argued. He compared Mr. Naseers crimes with those of Adis Medunjanin, a Queens-raised terrorist who was sentenced to life after plotting to blow himself up on the subway. Mr. Medunjanin, he said, hoped to join the Taliban, swore to kill American soldiers, trained in weaponry in Pakistan and switched allegiance to Al Qaeda. When Mr. Medunjanin returned to the United States, he deliberately crashed his car on the Whitestone Bridge just after calling 911 and saying, We love death more than you love life, which prosecutors described as a standard jihadist saying.

That conduct is far greater, Mr. Neuman said, than what they proved.

Does it matter that he wasnt successful? Judge Dearie asked. He was ready, willing and able to impose this carnage on innocent people.

Many judges do take that into account, Mr. Neuman argued, pointing out that the government had not proved that Mr. Naseer had bomb-making materials in hand. Its not at all clear how close this scheme was to succeeding.

Mr. Neuman said he would file an appeal for Mr. Naseer. One argument, he said, will be that Mr. Naseer should not have been allowed to represent himself.

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