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Flushing man pleads guilty to Al Qaeda conspiracy

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A man raised in Flushing agreed to serve 15 years in prison after admitting last Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan to conspiring to supply Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan with protective outdoor clothing.

Syed Hashmi pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization, while prosecutors agreed to drop three other terrorism-related charges at his June 7 sentencing before Judge Loretta Preska.

Hashmi was scheduled to go on trial on four terrorism charges April 26, but avoided that fate by taking a plea deal in which he will serve only the 15-year sentence. He has already spent four years in prison, at least three of them in solitary confinement in a federal facility in Lower Manhattan, according to the Associated Press.

The plea agreement was “the best deal that was available under the circumstan­ces,” Hashmi’s lawyer, David Ruhn, said, according to the New York Post.

“The government wanted to lock him up for the rest of his life. They were not successful in that goal,” Ruhn added.

Hashmi admitted he was aware that a friend who stayed with him for two weeks in January 2004 was storing ponchos, waterproof socks and sleeping bags which were going to be delivered to Al Qaeda, according to the AP. He also confessed to giving his friend $300 to purchase a plane ticket to Pakistan to deliver the items that were eventually destined to end up in the hands of Al Qaeda members, the AP reported.

George Venizelos, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the New York office, described the plea as “a good outcome,” according to the AP.

Hashmi, who was born in Karachi, Pakistan, was raised in Flushing and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brooklyn College before moving in 2003 to London, where he earned a master’s degree in international relations in 2006, the AP said.

Hashmi was arrested in June 2006 in London as he waited to board a flight to Pakistan. In 2007, he was extradited to the United States.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 5:48 pm, October 10, 2011
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