NEW YORK – A former member of Guyana's parliament was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for plotting to blow up fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport after insisting he was wrongly convicted.
"At no time did I have any intention or believe in bringing any harm to the people of this country by the terrorist acts I happened to be identified with," Abdul Kadir told a judge in federal court in Brooklyn.
U.S. District Court Judge Dora Irizarry responded that there was ample evidence Kadir was a key player in "a plan that would have caused devastation unimaginable."
Kadir and Russell Defreitas, a former JFK cargo handler, were arrested and charged with multiple counts of conspiracy in 2007 after an informant infiltrated the plot and recorded them discussing it.
At a trial where Kadir and Defreitas were convicted earlier this year, prosecutors alleged the pair wanted to kill thousands of people and cripple the American economy by using explosives to blow up the fuel tanks and the underground pipelines that run through an adjacent Queens neighborhood. The said they sought the help of militant Muslims, including an al-Qaida operative, in Guyana.
The government relied heavily on the informant's secret recordings, which captured Defreitas bragging about his knowledge of Kennedy Airport and its vulnerabilities.
"For years, I've been watching them," he said of the fuel tanks while on a reconnaissance mission with the informant.
In other tapes, Defreitas ranted about punishing the United States with an attack that would "dwarf 9/11."
Kadir testified in his own defense, denying he was a militant Muslim who spied for Iran for years before joining the JFK scheme. He told jurors that he warned the plotters: "Islam does not support aggression or killing innocent people."
As part of the plot, Defreitas and the informant traveled to Guyana to try to meet with Kadir and show him homemade videotapes of the airport's so-called fuel farms. The plotters also discussed reaching out to Adnam Shukrijumah, an al-Qaida member and explosives expert who was believed to be hiding out in the Caribbean at the time.
Shukrijumah, an FBI most-wanted terrorist, has been indicted on federal charges he was involved in a failed plot to attack the New York City subway system with suicide bombers.
Sentencing for DeFreitas is set for Jan. 21.