New York: A Pakistani-American man was handed out 15 years in prison after he pleaded guilty for helping an al Qaeda operative in London in his efforts to combat US forces in Afghanistan.
Syed Hashmi, a former college student from Brooklyn, pleaded guilty on April 27 to helping an al Qaeda operative Junaid Babar four years ago while studying in the UK.
H ashmi could have spent his entire life in prison but confessed to get a shorter term.
Hashmi pleaded guilty to willingly housing an al Qaeda operative Junaid Babar, between 2004 and 2006 who was providing ponchos, socks and sleeping bags for use by the terrorist outfits in Afghanistan.
The 30-year-old also admitted to giving the same operative USD 300 to buy a plane ticket to take the gear to Pakistan for al Qaeda to use.
"As the government has pointed out, Mr Hashmi knew exactly what he was doing and where that equipment stored in his apartment was going," said District Judge Loretta Preska yesterday, according to the New York Post.
"Hashmi was held accountable for his conduct, and his sentence makes clear that individuals who provide material will be brought to justice," US Attorney Preet Bharara said.
"Terrorist organisations like al Qaeda depend upon a wide array of individuals across the world to accomplish their violent objectives. This support network includes individuals like Syed Hashmi who embrace al Qaeda`s violent ideology and stand ready to translate ideology into action," the prosecutor said.
For the last three years, Hashmi has been held in solitary confinement in a Manhattan prison. The Post reported that Hashmi read out a 10-minute statement that cited the Koran several times, railed against the conditions of his incarceration and tried to explain his crime, claiming in part he gave his friend money for his friend`s sick daughter.
"I take full responsibility for my actions," Hashmi said, noting, at the same time that he was trying to help someone in need. "If they seek your help, in religion, it`s your duty to help them."
During his time in London, he was known to be a member of banned group al-Muhajiroun. In 2006, Hashmi was arrested in Heathrow Airport before he took a plane to Pakistan. In 2007, Hashmi was the first person to be extradited from the UK to the US under new laws post 9/11.
In the past three years, several human rights organisations have protested against the conditions of his rigorous solitary confinement in the New York prison. Some of his supporters insist he was being prosecuted because he had spoken out against US policies in the Middle East.