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US Judge Gives Pakistani-American 15-Year Sentence for Sending Military Gear to al-Qaeda

A federal judge in New York City on Wednesday sentenced a 30-year-old Pakistan-born American, Syed Fahad Hashmi, to 15 years in prison. Hashmi had earlier pleaded guilty to providing material support to a terrorist organization. Larry Freund reports from New York.

Syed Fahad Hashmi had pleaded guilty in April to one count of giving what prosecutors described as military gear to al-Qaeda operatives in London. The 15-year sentence had been negotiated between U.S. prosecutors and defense attorneys and, in court in April, Hashmi admitted his guilt.

Hashmi was born in Pakistan but came as a child with his family to the United States. In 2003 he enrolled at a London university to earn a master's degree, but three years later he was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport on an American indictment that he had conspired to send military gear - socks and rainproof ponchos - and money to al-Qaeda associates. He was then transferred to the United States where he has been held in isolation.

Judge Loretta Preska, in her sentencing remarks, called the charges against Hashmi a serious offense against the United States, adding that there is a need to establish deterrence as well as protect the public. She said that while Hashmi was not charged with being a member of al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization depends on a wide array of individual around the world, what she described as "a global support network". She said Hashmi knew what he was doing and where the equipment was going.

Hashmi, with a black beard and wearing a white cap, read a long statement taking what he called full responsibility for his actions, begging those he had hurt for their forgiveness and saying that he had violated Islamic principles at a time when he was ignorant. But he also accused U.S. officials of imposing cruel and unusual conditions on imprisoned Muslims.

Sean Maher, a defense attorney for Hashmi, told reporters after the sentencing that the 15 year-sentence was a negotiated arrangement and that Hashmi could be freed from prison after eight or nine years because of the time he has already served and because of prison rules. Maher said the years Hashmi was in prison could have contributed to his guilty plea.

"I think it's obvious that when you are broached with the possibility of saving yourself from the rest of your natural life in solitary confinement and if you plead guilty you can be out in eight years, certainly that's a factor that's taken into consideration by both the attorneys and by anyone who is under those circumstances. So I am sure that is a part of it. But the bottom line is that he was truthful in court and acknowledged his guilt," Maher said.

He said the 15-year sentence is not subject to appeal.