NEW YORK – A Muslim man was sentenced Friday to life in prison for joining a failed plot to firebomb John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007 by blowing up jet fuel supplies with the help of a notorious al-Qaida explosives expert.
A federal judge in Brooklyn gave Kareem Ibrahim the life term after a jury found him guilty last year of conspiracy.
Ibrahim's attorneys had argued in court papers that he deserved only 13 years, claiming prosecutors had exaggerated his role in a scheme that had been infiltrated by an FBI informant and had no chance of succeeding.
But U.S. Judge District Court Dora Irizarry said the case "shows the government at its best in terms of protecting the security of this country."
Ibrahim, 66, a Shiite imam from Trinidad, "abandoned the true tenants of his religion" by participating in the plot, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
Three other men were charged in the plot: Co-defendants Russell Defreitas, a former cargo handler, and Abdel Kadir, an engineer and former member of Guyana's parliament, both were sentenced to life in prison. Abdel Nur was sentenced to 15 years behind bars.
Ibrahim, Nur and Kadir were arrested in Trinidad in June 2007 and extradited to the United States. Defreitas was arrested in New York.
At a pair of trials, prosecutors accused the men of wanting to kill thousands of people and cripple the American economy and avenge U.S. mistreatment of Muslims worldwide by using explosives to blow up the fuel tanks and the underground pipelines that run through an adjacent Queens neighborhood.
The government relied heavily on the informant's secret recordings, including some that captured Defreitas bragging about his inside 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 spoke of punishing the United States with an attack that would "dwarf 9/11."
Prosecutors told jurors that in 2007, Defreitas sought Ibrahim's assistance — showing him video surveillance of the airport's so-called fuel farms — because Ibrahim had connections with militant leaders in Iran.
On tape, Ibrahim told Defreitas that the attackers must be ready to "fight it out, kill who you could kill and go back to Allah."
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.