Al Qaeda sleeper agent sentenced to eight years in prison
Ali Saleh Al-Marri, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to Al Qaeda, could have got 15 years. But the federal judge took into account the almost six years he was held without charge as an enemy combatant in a military prison.
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During a two-day sentencing hearing in federal court in Peoria, Ill., Mr. Al-Marri's lawyers urged US District Judge Michael Mihm to hand down a lighter sentence in recognition that Al-Marri had been held without charge as an enemy combatant for more than six years in a military prison. They said he had been subjected to periods of extreme isolation and deprivation as part of a military interrogation plan to force him to confess his involvement with Al Qaeda.
Al-Marri was one of three individuals held at the US Naval brig at Charleston, S.C., under controversial circumstances. All three were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics.
Lawyers had been fighting for years to get Al-Marri's case before the US Supreme Court. They argued that his open-ended detention without charge was illegal and unconstitutional. Last year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, but before the arguments could be made the government and Al-Marri's lawyers agreed to a plea bargain.
Under the terms of the agreement, Al-Marri agreed to admit to involvement with Al Qaeda and the government agreed to limit his potential prison time to 15 years.
Without the plea bargain, Al-Marri would have faced a suggested guidelines' sentence of 30 years to life in prison.
Approached by Al Qaeda
The plea agreement says that between 1998 and 2001 Al-Marri attended "terrorist training camps because he wished to engage in jihad." He received basic military training and was instructed how to avoid detection and communicate through codes.
In 2001, Al-Marri was approached by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Al Qaeda's operations chief who has since admitted to being the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Mohammed asked Al-Marri to assist Al Qaeda operations in the US, the plea agreement says.