NEW YORK – He pleaded guilty more than five years ago to plotting bomb attacks on American embassies, but the case against Al Qaeda member Mohammed Mansour Jabarah has been shrouded in secrecy until now.
Jabarah was to emerge from the shadows Friday to be sentenced, likely to life in prison, for his brief career in terror. It included training with Usama bin Laden in Afghanistan and unsuccessfully planning to bomb embassies in the Philippines and Singapore, prosecutors said in court papers.
The Canadian citizen's appearance in a Manhattan courtroom will be his first time in public since his detention in 2002. Thursday marked the first time the court system made public any details of his case, which has been under seal since his arrest.
Prosecutors said there was a good reason for the secrecy.
Jabarah, 26, initially worked as a government informant after he was brought to the U.S. from Canada in 2002 after his capture in Jordan. He pleaded guilty to the terror charges that summer in a secret proceeding, without mounting a defense, and briefly lived in an FBI-arranged housing facility rather than a prison while he worked as a collaborator.
"Jabarah was extensively debriefed by the FBI and prosecutors and provided a considerable amount of valuable intelligence," prosecutors said in court papers.
That changed, authorities said, when agents searched his quarters and found weapons, bomb-making instructions and materials suggesting he intended to murder some of the agents with whom he was dealing.
He was transferred to a federal detention center in Manhattan and spent the next four years isolated in a cell where he was under video surveillance 24 hours a day. He was moved to a different prison in 2006. Talks to renew his cooperation broke down.
Attempts to e-mail and phone the lawyer who court records said was present for Jabarah's guilty plea in 2002 were not successful Thursday. It was unclear who is representing him now.
Court records show Jabarah was a major coordinator of a plot to bomb embassies in Manila and Singapore, but the attacks were foiled in December 2001. Jabarah was arrested after fleeing to Oman, Jordan, and was deported to Canada, where he agreed to plead guilty in the U.S. and provide information about other terrorists.
Prosecutors in New York said Jabarah had been living at an undisclosed location for several months when his attitude abruptly changed following the death of a childhood friend who had attacked U.S. Marines posted in Kuwait.
Agents found a newspaper article about the armed attackers in Jabarah's quarters, with a handwritten note at the top: "By Allah I will avenge your death."
They also discovered pictures of bin Laden, maps of Fort Dix, memos about New York's drinking water supply and letters that bemoaned the fall of the Taliban and railed against the evils of America.