Russell Defreitas and Abdul Kadir, two men charged with plotting to blow up targets at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, were found guilty of conspiracy charges Aug. 3 by a federal jury in Brooklyn. Defreitas, 67, a naturalized US citizen and former cargo handler at the airport, was found guilty of all six charges against him. Kadir, 58, a citizen of Guyana who once served as a parliament member there, was found guilty on five of the six charges, acquitted of surveillance of a mass-transportation facility. The men could face life in prison, with sentencing scheduled for December. Prosecutors said the men sought aid from al-Qaeda operative Adnan Shukrijumah, recently indicted in federal court in a supposed plot to launch suicide attacks on the New York City subway system. (WSJ, Aug. 3)
As we noted when the pair were arrested in 2007, the men were supposedly linked to an Islamist militant organization that was behind an attempted coup d’etat in Trinidad in 1990. Curiously, the convictions came the same day Trinidad’s government announced formation of a commission to investigate the coup attempt just after its twentieth anniversary. More than 24 were killed and millions lost to looting and arson after militants stormed a session of parliament on July 27, 1990 in a move to overthrow the government of then-Prime Minister Ray Robinson.
The new government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the new investigation last month, calling it necessary to bring closure to one of the most traumatic events in the history of Trinidad & Tobago. Accused coup leader and former mounted police constable Yasin Abu Bakr expressed his willingness to cooperate with the probe and reveal details of political deals he and his Jamaat al-Muslimeen organization made with several past administrations. (Caribbean Life News, Aug. 3)
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Accused JFK bomb plot conspirator gets life
A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Feb. 17 sentenced Russell Defreitas, a Guyanese airport cargo handler, to life in prison for conspiring to commit terrorist attacks on John F International Kennedy Airport. Defreitas and co-conspirator Abdul Kadir, originally arrested in 2007, were convicted by a federal jury in July on charges of conspiracy to attack a public transportation system, conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosive, conspiracy to attack aircraft and aircraft materials, conspiracy to destroy international airport facilities and conspiracy to attack a mass transportation facility. Kadir was sentenced to life in prison in December for his role in the plot. A third defendant, Abdel Nur, pleaded guilty in June for supporting the plot and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. A fourth co-conspirator, Kareem Ibrahim, awaits trial on the same charges as Defreitas and Kadir. US Attorney Loretta Lynch, said, “Russell Defreitas plotted to commit a terrorist attack that he hoped would rival 9-11. But law enforcement detected and thwarted the plot, saving lives. Now, our courts have dispensed justice by handing out the life sentence that Defreitas richly deserves.”
According to the original complaint, the plot was intended to “cause greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks,” according to one of the suspects. The plot could have destroyed parts of New York’s borough of Queens, where an underground fuel pipeline serving the airport runs. Defreitas, designer of the plot, sought to use his experience as a cargo handler for the airport to attack JFK’s fuel tanks and pipelines. He recruited Kadir, Nur and Ibrahim during several trips he made to Guyana and Trinidad. Authorities tracked the plot for more than a year before making the arrests. Defreitas had said he formed the plot more than a decade ago, saying he chose the airport because its destruction would put “the whole country in mourning.” (Jurist, Feb. 18)