NEW YORK – A U.S. citizen convicted of joining al-Qaida and participating in a failed 2009 suicide bombing at an American military base in Afghanistan has been ordered to serve 45 years in prison.
Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh was sentenced Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court.
Farekh's case drew extra attention because of reports that American officials had initially debated whether to try to kill him in a drone strike, a step almost never taken against U.S. citizens. President Barack Obama's administration ultimately decided to try for a capture and civilian prosecution instead.
The Houston-born defendant was captured in Pakistan and brought to the U.S. in 2015.
Farekh's lawyer, Sean Maher, had argued the forensic evidence was too weak to convict him, calling fingerprint experts' testimony "junk science."
Most of the charges against Farekh stemmed from an attack at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost City, Afghanistan, on Jan. 19, 2009.
The attackers drove two vehicles rigged with explosives. An initial blast injured several Afghans, including a pregnant woman, but a much larger bomb failed to go off, sparing the lives of American soldiers.
The jury heard testimony about how forensic technicians in Afghanistan recovered 18 of Farekh's fingerprints on packing tape used to bind the detonators on the unexploded bomb.
Farekh was convicted of conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to bomb a government facility and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
During the trial, the jury heard testimony from Zarein Ahmedzay, one of three men convicted in a thwarted plot to bomb New York's subway system. Ahmedzay told jurors he was trained by an al-Qaida operative identified by prosecutors as a co-conspirator of Farekh's who traveled with him from Canada to Pakistan in 2007.