NEW YORK – NEW YORK (AP) — A New Yorker extradited from Great Britain was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison for helping an al-Qaida operative supply equipment to militants in Afghanistan.
U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska said the stiff sentence was intended to send a message to anyone tempted to join the network of al-Qaida "sympathizers and facilitators" who "hide under the cloak" of American citizenship.
Syed Hashmi, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American, had pleaded guilty in April in federal court in Manhattan to charges he stashed away equipment for two weeks in 2004 in his apartment while studying in London. The al-Qaida operative eventually gave the raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks to a high-ranking al-Qaida member.
"Mr. Hashmi knew exactly what he was doing and where that equipment stored in his apartment was going," Preska said.
Before sentencing, a tearful Hashmi apologized to his family in a rambling statement rife with references to Allah and Islam. He said his faith had compelled him to help fellow Muslims like the operative, who later cooperated with the government.
The cooperator, Mohammed Junaid Babar, of Queens, admitted in 2004 that he had traveled to the province of Waziristan to supply cash and military equipment to the terror network.
"Yes, I was wrong in helping my brothers in the noble mujahideen, but they will remain in my heart," he said in a courtroom packed with supporters.
Hashmi was arrested in June 2006 at Heathrow Airport in London as he was about to board a flight to Pakistan. A year later, he became the first person to be extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States on terrorism charges.
Family, friends and civil rights groups insisted Hashmi was prosecuted because he had been outspoken against U.S. policies in the Middle East. They also complained that he had been held in solitary confinement for most of the time he has been in custody.
Hashmi was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and raised in Flushing, Queens. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Brooklyn College and a master's degree in international relations from London Metropolitan University in 2006.