Court Tosses Out al-Qaida Plotter's Sentence

Tuesday, 20 Sep 2011 12:27 PM

By Steve Emerson

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A federal appeals court ruling threw out a 17-year prison sentence for al-Qaida plotter Jose Padilla Monday, suggesting the prison term imposed by a Miami federal judge was too lenient. The ruling ordered a new sentencing for Padilla.

A federal jury convicted Padilla, Adham Hassoun, and Kifah Jayyousi in April 2007 on terrorism-related charges that included financial support and recruitment for al-Qaida and other Islamist terror groups. Padilla was sentenced to 17 years, Hassoun to 15 years, and Jayyousi to 12 years.

Padilla, a former Chicago gang member and convert to Islam, was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in 2002 on suspicion of plotting to bomb apartment buildings and detonate a "dirty bomb" in the United States.

He was held for three years without charge as an enemy combatant until he was moved to a civilian prison and charged in a Miami federal court. The "dirty bomb" allegations were not part of his indictment.

The appeals court upheld the Padilla's conviction, along with those of Hassoun and Jayyousi.

"The record shows that the government presented evidence that the defendants formed a support cell linked to radical Islamists worldwide and conspired to send money, recruits, and equipment overseas to groups that the defendants knew used violence in their efforts to establish Islamic states," according to the ruling.

It also upheld Hassoun and Jayyousi's sentences. But it found that the sentencing judge who presided over the four-month trial did not attribute enough importance to Padilla's training at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan.

"Padilla posed a heightened risk of future dangerousness due to his al-Qaida training," the ruling said.

It also ruled that the judge "attached little weight to Padilla's extensive criminal history, gave no weight to his future dangerousness, compared him to criminals who were not similarly situated, and gave unreasonable weight to the conditions of his pre-trial confinement."

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