SEATTLE – James Ujaama (search), a Seattle-raised Muslim convert who pleaded guilty last year to aiding the Taliban (search), was sentenced Friday to two years in prison. With credit for time served, he'll be free this summer.
Ujaama, 38, appeared before U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein. He was arrested in July 2002 following an investigation into a Seattle mosque and was indicted on two charges: that he conspired to set up a terrorism investigations. In particular, they wanted to hear what he knew about fiery London cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri (search), whose Web site Ujaama once ran.
Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of two years in prison -- most of which Ujaama has already served. He is due to be released from prison July 22.
However, he would be subject to three years of supervised release, would have to surrender his passport and would be required to continue cooperating with the federal government for nine more years. He also would not be allowed to discuss his involvement in any investigations.
"None of this has been easy for me," Ujaama told Rothstein. He said he does not agree with the law he was convicted of violating. "That's my right, however, it is U.S. law," he said.
"In the future, I will act more responsibly and make the right choices," he told the judge.
Rothstein said she was initially surprised by the light term called for in the plea agreement. But she said she also had never seen a case where a defendant had agreed to provide such extensive cooperation. "This is a unique circumstance," she said.
Ujaama was born James Earnest Thompson (search) in Denver but moved to Seattle with his family as a boy. As a young man he and his brother, Jon, who now goes by Mustafa Ujaama, were credited with working to rid the Central Area neighborhood they lived in of drugs and crime.
In the early 1990s, Ujaama converted to Islam and soon became involved in the now-closed Dar-us-Salaam (search) mosque in Seattle, whose members preached a more extreme version of Islamic teachings. In about 1997, Ujaama left his son and family and moved to London, where he eventually became friends with al-Masri at the Finsbury Park Mosque.
The U.S. State Department has classified al-Masri as a terrorist, and he is wanted in Yemen for his alleged role in the 1998 kidnappings of 16 Western tourists by the Islamic Army of Aden (search). Four of the hostages died during a shootout.
But Ujaama sometimes traveled back to Seattle, and in 1999, federal officials alleged, he joined others in trying to set up a terrorist training camp at a ranch in Bly. He sent al-Masri a fax, investigators have said, proposing the establishment of a camp there, and al-Masri sent two representatives to evaluate the site.
The two were reportedly disappointed that the property had no barracks for troops, and the camp was never developed. One of them was Oussama Kassir (search), who was arrested at his apartment in Sweden last year and is being held on weapons charges.
Investigators learned of the plot through an informant within the group.
Beginning in 2000, Ujaama returned to London and ran al-Masri's Web site, which advocated jihad, or holy war, against the United States. Late that year, at al-Masri's bidding, he escorted another man to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, Ujaama admitted in his plea agreement.
Ujaama initially contended he brought the computer equipment and money to benefit a girls school in Afghanistan.
He also tried to travel to Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but was unable to cross the border from Pakistan, his plea agreement reads.
The Seattle Times, citing unidentified sources, reported Thursday that while in Afghanistan, Ujaama fell ill and was treated by Usama bin Laden's personal physician and top adviser, Ayman al-Zawahiri (search). The U.S. government has offered a $25 million reward for al-Zawahiri's capture.
Ujaama has testified before a grand jury in New York that is investigating al-Masri's role in the attempted establishment of the terrorist training camp in Bly.