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Flushing man gets 15 years for aiding al Qaeda

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A 30-year-old man raised in Flushing was sentenced last week to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda.

Syed Hashmi, also known as Fahad, became the first individual extradited from Britain to the United States on terror charges in 2007 after being arrested June 6, 2006, at Heathrow Airport while waiting to board a flight to Pakistan.

He then admitted during a March court appearance in federal court in Manhattan that in 2004 he conspired to supply al Qaeda members in Afghanistan with protective outdoor clothing. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization in exchange for prosecutors agreeing to drop three other terrorism-related charges at his sentencing last week before Judge Loretta Preska.

“Individuals like Syed Hashmi ... embrace al Qaeda’s violent ideology and stand ready to translate ideology into action,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “Today, Hashmi was held accountable for his conduct and his sentence makes clear that individuals who provide material support to al Qaeda will be brought to justice.”

Hashmi was originally slated to go on trial on four terrorism charges April 26, but instead took a plea deal to 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 at the time, 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.”

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 provided equipment to people, who then transported it to a senior al Qaeda commander in South Waziristan, Pakistan, according to federal prosecutors.

He also confessed to giving a 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, who planned to use the equipment against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to federal prosecutors.

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, according to the AP.

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

Updated 5:55 pm, October 10, 2011
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