California Man Gets 24 Years in Prison for Attending Al Qaeda Training Camp
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A California man was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison Monday for attending an Al Qaeda terrorist training camp in Pakistan and returning to the United States "willing to wage violent jihad."
Hamid Hayat, a U.S. citizen who turned 25 on Monday, was convicted in April 2006 of providing material support to terrorists and lying about it to FBI agents. Prosecutors said Hayat intended to attack hospitals, banks, grocery stores and government buildings in California.
He could have received up to 39 years in prison.
But federal Judge Garland Burrell Jr. imposed the lesser sentence, citing Hayat's lack of a previous criminal record and other factors.
Hayat had no visible reaction when the sentence was read, and his family sat quietly in the back of the courtroom. Outside the courthouse, his relatives lashed out at the prosecution.
"We were expecting justice. We did not get justice. My son is innocent," said Hamid Hayat's father, Umer.
The case began after an FBI informant befriended Hayat and began secretly tape-recording their conversations. During those talks, most of which were in Hayat's home, Hayat talked about jihad, praised Al Qaeda and expressed support for religious governments in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
His lawyer, Wazhma Mojaddidi, said those sentiments were nothing more than the idle chatter of a directionless young man who had only a sixth-grade education. She said the government had no proof her client had ever attended a terror camp.
Ultimately, jurors were swayed by a confession that was videotaped during a lengthy FBI interrogation. His lawyer said the confession was coerced after agents peppered him with leading questions and wore him down during an all-night session.
Hamid Hayat's father also was caught up in the case, but a federal jury deadlocked on whether he had lied to federal agents about his son's attendance at the camp. Umer Hayat later pleaded guilty to lying to a customs agent about why he was bringing $28,000 in cash to Pakistan several years earlier.
Burrell said the younger Hayat had "returned to the United States ready and willing to wage violent jihad when directed to do so."
The case against the Hayats grew from a wider federal probe into the 2,500-member Pakistani community in Lodi, a farming and wine-growing region about 35 miles south of the state capital.
That investigation began shortly after the September 2001 terror attacks and focused on whether Lodi business owners were sending money to terror groups abroad.