NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Pakistani man was sentenced to 40 years in prison Tuesday for a failed al-Qaeda conspiracy to attack the New York City subway.
Naseer, 29, was first arrested in 2009 in Great Britain on charges he was part of a terror cell plotting to blow up a shopping mall in Manchester, England.
The charges were dropped after a British court found there wasn’t enough evidence, but U.S. prosecutors later named him in an indictment that alleged a broader conspiracy that included a failed plot to attack the New York City subway.
After his rearrest and extradition to the United States in 2013, Naseer pleaded not guilty to providing and conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda and conspiring to use a destructive device.
“This al-Qaeda plot was intended by the group’s leaders and Naseer to send a message to the United States and its allies,” United States Attorney Robert Capers said. “Today’s sentence sends an even more powerful message in response: terrorists who target the U.S. and its allies will be held accountable for their violent crimes to the full extent of the law.”
“This case demonstrates the importance of a closely coordinated international law enforcement approach to an established terrorist network that knows no borders,” said Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. “The manner in which these defendants communicated their deadly plans reinforces the need to allow law enforcement the necessary authority and tools to prevent these plots from succeeding in their objectives of mass destruction and death.”
During his trial, Naseer acted as his own lawyer, often referring to himself in the third person as he set about portraying himself as a moderate Muslim who was falsely accused. He was assisted by a court-appointed attorney but largely spoke for himself and demonstrated a calm demeanor in court.
Naseer’s self-representation created the spectacle of the defendant cross-examining an admitted terrorist. Five British M15 secret agents also testified wearing disguises, one wore a fake beard and thick black glasses, and the trial marked the first time documents recovered in the 2009 Navy SEAL raid against Osama bin Laden’s compound were used as trial evidence.
But most of the case hinged on email exchanges in 2009 between Naseer and a person described by prosecutors as an al Qaeda handler who was directing plots to attack civilians in Manchester, New York City and Copenhagen.
The government alleged Naseer used coded language in an email to inform his al Qaeda handler in Pakistan that he was “planning a large wedding for numerous guests between April 15 and 20, 2009” and that his al Qaeda contact “should be ready.”
Prosecutors said he was giving the date for the subway attack in New York.
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