Terror suspect paints alqaeda picture in plea bargain
Original Source Link: (May no longer be active)
|In the time he did spend co-operating with authorities, Ressam covered topics on training camps in Afghanistan, terrorist recruitment, training, cell locations, targets, the making of explosives and ideology. |
Sentencing of 'millennium bomber' scheduled for Wednesday after many delays
08:30 AM EDT Jul 29
SEATTLE (CP) - Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian caught trying to sneak into the United States from Canada and later convicted of plotting to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of the millennium, will be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
Ressam's sentencing was to take place after an unexpected three-month adjournment in April when U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour surprised lawyers for the defence and Justice Department by ordering the delay.
In the midst of the sentencing in April, the judge suddenly told the court he would allow Ressam more time to decide whether he wanted to provide additional information about two other men currently in custody in Canada and Britain.
Coughenour said he was "mystified" why Ressam would want to go ahead with the sentencing without waiting for a resolution of the cases of Samir Ait Mohamed and Haydar Abu Doha, who are now in custody in Canada and Britain respectively and are wanted in the United States.
Ressam, a former Montreal resident, was convicted in 2001 of nine charges but his sentencing was repeatedly delayed because he had agreed to co-operate with the Justice Department in return for a lighter sentence.
In December 1999, Ressam was caught as he tried to smuggle a trunkload of bomb-making materials into the United States from Canada through Port Angeles, Wash. He had left Canada from Victoria and had travelled across the Juan de Fuca Strait by ferry.
His convictions included terrorist conspiracy and he faced as much as 130 years in prison before agreeing to co-operate with authorities.
In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said Ressam chose the United States' fifth largest airport as his target and decided on December 1999, the height of the millennium celebration, "so that the chaos and fear flowing from his act would be magnified tenfold."
Initially, the U.S. government and Ressam's lawyers had agreed on a sentence of at least 27 years in return for his co-operation with authorities.
Prosecutors have said that Ressam has already provided information on more than 100 potential terrorists in interviews that stretched over two years.
But in an April court filing, prosecutors said they recommended the longer sentence because Ressam stopped co-operating in 2003, "breaching his agreement and effectively terminating at least two criminal cases of vital interest to national security."
One U.S. attorney told the court that it was possible the extradition efforts against Mohamed and Doha could collapse without more information.
In the time he did spend co-operating with authorities, Ressam covered topics on training camps in Afghanistan, terrorist recruitment, training, cell locations, targets, the making of explosives and ideology.
The U.S. government said Ressam's testimony helped convict Mokhtar Haouari of supplying fake identification and cash for the millennium plot. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
The defence said Ressam's information had led to the arrests of potential terrorists in the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany and France.
In April, the prosecution called one witness, FBI agent Fred Humphries, who had many meetings with Ressam after his arrest and who was testifying as to the value of his information.
He said Mohamed and Doha had been arrested from information provided by Ressam, and that Ressam provided information about "tradecraft" integral to terrorists, such as paper detonators.
Ressam told authorities of "safe houses" in Montreal, where he lived before he went to Vancouver. He also provided information on the structure of terrorist cells.
Humphries said some of Ressam's information was known to intelligence authorities but had been classified. The information he provided allowed authorities to pass the information on to other law enforcement agencies.
© The Canadian Press, 2005