Pakistani Man Faces Sentencing in U.S. Over Al Qaeda Plot

Pakistani citizen Abid Naseer, as seen in this U.S. courtroom sketch, has plead not guilty to terrorism charges. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK, Nov 24 – A Pakistani man is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday after a U.S. jury convicted him of plotting to bomb a shopping center in England as part of an Al Qaeda plan for attacks in Europe and the United States.

Abid Naseer, 29, faces life in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie in New York after being convicted in March on charges including that he provided material support to the Islamic militant group.

In court papers, Naseer’s lawyer has urged the judge to grant him leniency, calling a life sentence excessive given his “very limited” alleged role in the plot.

But federal prosecutors in a court filing contend Naseer deserves a sentence of 30 years to life imprisonment, saying he remains committed to Al Qaeda’s cause and poses an extreme danger.

Naseer was convicted nearly six years after he was first arrested in a British anti-terrorism operation. British authorities never charged Naseer but he was later indicted in the United States and extradited in 2013.

Naseer, who was raised in Peshawar, Pakistan and said he was a semi-professional cricket player, led an Al Qaeda cell that plotted to bomb a shopping center in Manchester, England, in April 2009, prosecutors said.

The proposed bombing in Britain was part of an overall plot involving Naseer and Al Qaeda cells that also included attacks against the New York City subway system and a Copenhagen newspaper, prosecutors said.

Two men, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, have pleaded guilty to U.S. charges stemming from the New York subway plot. A third, Adis Medunjanin, was sentenced in 2012 to life in prison.

Zazi testified at Naseer’s trial, providing testimony that supported prosecutors’ claims that both men coordinated their plans through coded emails with an Al Qaeda operative in Pakistan.

At trial, prosecutors used never-before publicized documents seized from the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden as part of their case against Naseer and testimony from British MI5 officers who conducted surveillance on him.

The MI5 officers testified anonymously, wearing wigs and makeup to protect their identities.

At trial, Naseer represented himself. He denied any affiliation with Al Qaeda or any plot, telling jurors that “terrorism is not compatible with Islam.”

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