US court ups 'Millennium Bomber' sentence

2012-10-24 23:23
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Seattle - "Millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam, whose original 22-year prison term was deemed too lenient by a US appeals court, was re-sentenced to 37 years behind bars on Wednesday for a foiled New Year's Eve 1999 plot to set off explosives at Los Angeles International Airport.

Federal prosecutors who appealed the original punishment had asked the Seattle-based US district judge presiding over the case to impose a new sentence that would require Ressam, an Algerian national, to spend the rest of his life in prison.

They argued Ressam deserved a much harsher penalty because he had reneged on an agreement to assist in the prosecution of other suspected militants and later recanted all his testimony and other statements to authorities.

By doing so Ressam, 45 , demonstrated he would remain a threat to society once released from prison, prosecutors said.

But US District Judge John Coughenour ruled that while a stiffer sentence was called for, a life term was not warranted under the circumstances.

"This case provokes our greatest fears ... but fear is a foul ingredient for sentencing calculations," the judge said before adjusting Ressam's sentence to 37 years in prison plus five years of supervised release.

Ressam, wearing a beige prison uniform, sat quietly in court with his arms folded during most of the proceedings. As the sentence was pronounced, he cupped his chin in his hand, his forefinger extended across his lips. He did not address the court, except to say, "Yes, your honour," when the judge asked if he understood.

Ressam's lawyers had urged a sentence of 30 to 34 years, arguing this was close to the 35-year term prosecutors previously recommended and on par with the statutory maximum penalty carried by the core offences for which Ressam was convicted - an act of terrorism through the use of explosives.

They further argued that Ressam should still get credit for valuable information he did provide to authorities, including testimony against a convicted co-conspirator.

Ressam also identified Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted 11 Sept conspirator, as an individual he met at a militant training camp in Afghanistan, and gave information leading to the arrest of al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, according to the defence.


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