NEW YORK – A doctor convicted of conspiring to treat injured Al Qaeda fighters was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison, with the judge reasoning that a sentence to deter others was needed because terrorists cannot carry out their deadly aims without help.
U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska noted Dr. Rafiq Sabir, 53, showed no remorse after his May conviction for conspiring to provide material support to terrorists by agreeing to treat injured Al Qaeda members so they could return to Iraq to battle Americans.
The judge said there was "no reason to believe that this defendant has abandoned any criminal intentions."
She said terrorism offenses were among the most serious crimes prosecuted and required stern punishments.
"If not for assistance to terrorists, then terrorist acts would not take place," she said.
Just before the announcement of the sentence in a crowded courtroom, Sabir, of Boca Raton, Fla., insisted he was "completely innocent."
He said a co-defendant, jazz musician and martial arts expert Tarik Shah, had duped him into taking an oath with an FBI agent who posed as an Al Qaeda recruiter, never explaining that he was pledging loyalty to Al Qaeda or its leader, Usama bin Laden.
"I'm an extremely gullible man," he said.
Sabir said he learned more about Shah at his trial than he had learned in the previous 20 years when they had become close friends.
He said he now realizes Shah tried to sell his services to Al Qaeda.
"My intentions were entirely within the law," he said. "I had no idea I was being asked to be an Al Qaeda member."
The judge said she concluded Sabir perjured himself when he testified during trial that he did not understand the accent of the FBI agent during the pledging ceremony and did not realize that "Al Qaeda" was said or that references to "Usama" were about bin Laden.
Shah was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison in a deal with the government. A Brooklyn bookstore owner who pleaded guilty was sentenced to 13 years in prison. A Washington, D.C., cab driver has pleaded guilty and agreed to serve 15 years in prison.