Ten years after he was arrested for plotting to bomb New York's subways, Najibullah Zazi was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison, the time he has already spent in jail.
Zazi pleaded guilty in 2010 to three charges connected to a plot to bomb the subway around the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S.
But since then, the 33-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen provided "extraordinary'' assistance to U.S. counterterrorism authorities, prosecutors said.
Since his arrest, Zazi has met more than 100 times with authorities to provide information, prosecutors said in court filings. He has also testified in several trials and "provided critical intelligence and unique insight regarding al-Qaida and its members."
He testified at the 2015 trial of Abid Naseer, a Pakistani national convicted of leading an al-Qaida plot to bomb a shopping mall in Manchester, England, and against one of his co-conspirators in the subway plot, Adis Medunjanin, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
The third man charged in the subway plot, Zarein Ahmedzay, also proved helpful to federal authorities and was sentenced in December to 10 years — also essentially time served.
"I have no doubt you saved a life,'' U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie told Zazi during the sentencing hearing.
Zazi had faced a maximum term of life in prison, but Dearie sentenced him to 10 years on all three counts. That meant, since Zazi has already spent more than nine years in prison, he could be set free within days.
"I find it almost hard to imagine what I was involved in in 2008 and 2009," Zazi told the court. "I'm very sorry, your honor, for all the harm I have caused. And I ask for forgiveness."
Prosecutors said Zazi became radicalized while growing in the New York borough of Queens. He was recruited and trained by al-Qaida to bomb New York's subways during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.