Pakistani Jailed in NYC
New York: A federal judge
last Monday sentenced a Pakistani immigrant to 30 years in
prison for conspiring to place explosive devices in a subway
station in retaliation against abuses of Muslims at the hands
of Americans, according to local media.
The target was the busy 34th Street Subway Station in New
York City. The conspiracy occurred in 2004 just before the
Republican Convention was held in Manhattan at nearby Madison
Square Garden, the United States Justice Department said.
The defendant, Shahawar Matin Siraj, 24, was convicted after
a five-week trial.
Also implicated was James Elshafay, who pleaded guilty in
Oct 2004 and testified against Siraj at his trial. Elshafay's
sentencing date has not been set, the Department said, adding
that the prosecution used hours of taped conversation between
Siraj and Osama Eldawoody, an Egyptian nuclear engineer who
became a paid informant for the NY Police Department.
On the tapes, Siraj said he hated the US and wanted to place
explosives on bridges and subway stations in NY, including
the 34th Street Station.
Elshafay and Siraj actually inspected the station in August
2004 and drew up diagrams to help them place a bomb, the Department
said, but did not possess any explosive material when arrested.
The 30-year sentence, which Siraj's lawyer called "outrageous",
was handed down after Siraj apologized to the judge and prosecutors
but blamed the police informer for his fate.
The defendant, who has been held without bail since his arrest
on August 27, 2004, stood before the judge, Nina Gershon of
US District Court in Brooklyn, when she pronounced the sentence.
Siraj said the statements he had made about his plan to blow
up the subway and his anger at America, were secretly recorded
by the Police Department informer who defense lawyers argued
lured him into the plot. The tapes were played at the trial.
"Your honor I want to apologize about whatever I said
in the tapes - I wish I could take those words back but it
already happened, I already said those things," Siraj
said. "I'm taking responsibility for 34th Street, but
I was manipulated by this person."
But the jury in the case rejected his entrapment defense.
It had centered on the paid informer, who, according to defense
lawyers, had stoked Siraj's rage with images of Muslims abused
at the hands of Americans.
Judge Gershon, handing down the sentence, noted that while
some of the recordings captured Siraj saying the attack should
occur at the time the station was the least busy, it would
nonetheless have been deadly.
"The crimes committed here were extremely serious,"
she said, adding, "They had the potential, if not thwarted,
to wreak havoc with the NYC transportation system, indeed,
the tri-state-area transportation system."
But Siraj never obtained explosives, there was no timetable
for an attack, and the men were not linked to any known terrorist
Indeed, the informer, Eldawoody told Siraj and Elshafay that
he worked for a fictitious group called the Brotherhood and
said he would be able to provide the explosives for the plot.
Elshafay began cooperating with prosecutors shortly after
his arrest and also testified against Siraj.
He had turned down a plea deal offered by prosecutors under
which he would have been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
On Monday, the courtroom was crowded, largely with news reporters
and law enforcement officials, as well as with Siarj's parents
and uncle, according to media reports.
After the proceeding, his mother began to cry as she sat on
a bench outside the courtroom. Later, she spoke briefly to
reporters, maintaining her son's innocence and saying he would
"The NYPD, through a paid informant, tricked my son and
got him stuck in this," she said, as Wahid translated.
"He didn't do anything. I didn't get any justice. It
was not a fair sentence."
But the Police Department, which investigated the case, the
first in which a terrorism inquiry by its Intelligence Division
led to a prosecution in federal court, hailed the sentence,
calling it "a milestone in the safeguarding of NYC."
After the sentencing, Siraj's lead lawyer, Martin Stolar,
called the prison term "outrageous."
"The NYCPD was able to create a crime in order to solve
it, and claim a victory in the war on terror, and that's what
he was sentenced as, rather than a dimwit who was manipulated,"