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Appeals court upholds 2006 conviction of Calif. man for plotting terror attacks on US targets

A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of a Northern California man who was sentenced to 24 years in prison for attending an al-Qaida terrorist training camp and plotting against targets in the United States.

Hamid Hayat was convicted in 2006 of providing material support to terrorists and lying to FBI agents. Prosecutors said Hayat, now age 30, planned attacks on hospitals, banks, grocery stores and government buildings.

He argued on appeal that the jury's foreman was biased, and that the trial judge improperly allowed the jury to consider prejudicial evidence from some witnesses while excluding mitigating testimony from the defense.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split in upholding Hayat's conviction.

The U.S. citizen from Lodi, a farming and grape-growing region 35 miles south of Sacramento, was arrested in June 2005 after he returned from spending two years in Pakistan. He had no prior convictions.

An FBI informant courted Hayat as a friend and secretly recorded their conversations. Hayat discussed jihad, praised al-Qaida and expressed support for religious governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also made a videotaped confession after an all-night FBI interrogation following his arrest.

Judge A. Wallace Tashima dissented from his two colleagues, saying he would have overturned the conviction. He criticized what he called a case of "anticipatory prosecution" spurred by the government's efforts to fight terrorism.

"The government asked a jury to deprive a man of his liberty largely based on dire, but vague, predictions that the defendant might commit unspecified crimes in the future," Tashima wrote, highlighting "might" in italics.

Hayat's appellate attorneys, Dennis Riordan and Donald Horgan of San Francisco, did not immediately comment. They could ask the appeals court to reconsider the decision, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said the decision "confirms that Hayat received a fair and constitutional trial."

Hayat is serving his sentence at a medium security federal prison near Phoenix, according to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons online database.

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