Former Winnipegger convicted of terror gets 45-year sentence in New York court

Former Winnipegger convicted of terror gets 45-year sentence in New York court
From CBC - March 13, 2018

A former University of Manitoba student whose fingerprints were recovered from a massive unexploded bomb outside a U.S. military base in Afghanistan was sentenced Tuesday to 45 years in prison.

MuhanadAlFarekhwas sentencedin a Brooklyn, N.Y., court for supporting the militantgroup al-Qaeda and helping to prepare a 2009 truck bomb attack on the base. It was less than the life sentence sought by prosecutors.

The 32-year-old had been found guilty by a jury in September of thecharges of conspiring to murder Americans, using a weapon ofmass destruction and supporting a foreign terroristorganization. AlFarekhwill appealboththe verdict and sentence, said Sean Maher, one of his lawyers.

Before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan imposed the sentence, AlFarekh'sother lawyer, David Ruhnke, read a letter written by his client, who did not speak himself.

In the letter, Al Farekh did not directly address the crimes of which he was found guilty, but asked the judge to consider that young men could be misled into violence. Al Farekh said he isnow opposed to violence.

Assistant U.S. attorney Richard Tucker urged the judge not to believe the letter, saying Al Farekh remained "unshakably committed to violent jihad" and was "willing to say anything."

Cogan said the letter was "not an enthusiastic acceptance of responsibility."

"I just ca not draw anything from that," he said.

Still, the judge said he was giving Al Farekh some hope oflife after prison because he did not believe him to be "totally devoid of humanity," citing the support of his family.

Cogan said that, with 15 per cent off his sentence for goodbehaviour and three years alreadyserved, Al Farekh could get outwhen he is 67.

Lived in Winnipeg

Al Farekh is an American citizen but had lived in Winnipeg, where he has family, while enrolled at the University of Manitoba. In2007, he and two friends boarded a plane in Winnipeg and left for Pakistan, court was told during the trial.

An explosion in Afghanistan two years later eventually led to the charges against AlFarekh.

On Jan. 19, 2009, a truck carrying a bomb exploded outside the U.S. Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan'sKhostprovince. About 90 Americans were working there, helping with construction of buildings such as schools and hospitals.

One U.S. soldier and numerous Afghan nationals were injured.

A second truck carrying a much bigger bomb3,400 kilograms of explosivesnever detonated.

If it had, it would have been "catastrophic" and many people would have died, the jury was told.

The plan was for the first vehicle to detonate at the gateso the second truck, following closely behind, could enter the base and detonate inside"to maximize casualties and damage,"the prosecution said.

But the second truck got stuck in the blast crater from the first explosion. The driver of the second truck abandoned his vehicle without detonating its bomb and he was soon shot and killed by security personnel guarding the perimeter of the base, court heard.

Government witnesses testified there were 18 prints found on the unexploded bomb that matched AlFarekh's fingerprints. The prints were pulled from the packing tape wrapped around the explosives.

Al Farekh was arrested in Pakistan in 2014 andtransferred to the custody of U.S. authorities, whotook him to New York in 2015 to face trial.

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