NEW YORK – A Pakistani immigrant was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for hatching an unsuccessful plot to blow up a busy Manhattan subway station as revenge for wartime abuses of Iraqis.
Shahawar Matin Siraj, 24, was arrested on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention. Though there was no proof he ever obtained explosives or was linked to any terror organizations, prosecutors said his intentions were ominous: He wanted to blow up the Herald Square subway station, a bustling transportation hub located beneath Macy's flagship department store.
Defense attorneys had sought to convince U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon that Siraj's sentence should not exceed 10 years, arguing in recent court filings that their client was "not a dangerous psychopath but more of a confused and misguided youngster." Prosecutors countered that the defendant deserved at least 30 years behind bars as the "driving force" behind a "workable terrorist plot."
Siraj was convicted of conspiracy last year based partly on the testimony of a police informant, Osama Eldawoody, who was recruited to monitor radical Muslims at mosques and elsewhere following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Inside an Islamic bookstore near a Brooklyn mosque, Eldawoody wore a wire and chatted up an employee who lived with his parents in Queens — Siraj. When the topic turned to the war in Iraq, Siraj ranted about rumors among radicals that U.S. soldiers were sexually abusing Iraqi girls.