Somali immigrant gets 10 years in terror plea

On Nov. 27, Somali immigrant Nuradin Abdi was sentenced to 10 years in prison in US District Court in Columbus, Ohio, for his role in an alleged plot to bomb a shopping mall. Abdi, a cell phone salesperson before his November 2003 arrest, pleaded guilty in July 2007 of one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. [In 2004, questions were raised about whether Abdi’s mental state had been broken through torture while he was in immigration detention—see Immigration News Briefs, July 31, 2004]. Abdi first entered the US in 1995 with a false passport and was later granted asylum “based on a series of false statements,” according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). A DOJ spokesperson said Abdi would be deported to Somalia after serving his prison term.

The DOJ claimed Abdi traveled to Ethiopia in 1999 in an attempt to be trained in radio usage, guns, guerrilla warfare and bombs. Abdi’s attorneys point out that the DOJ never alleged what organization they believed was running the training camp Abdi was accused of visiting, or confirmed whether he even went there. “Since this was not a session where everybody has to bring their proof, they could have made any kind of statement,” said Yusuf Abucar, a spokesperson for Abdi’s family.

One of Abdi’s alleged co-conspirators in the mall bombing plot, Pakistani immigrant Iyman Faris, pleaded guilty in May 2003 to providing material support for terrorism and is serving a 20-year prison term. The other alleged co-conspirator, US citizen Christopher Paul, was indicted in April 2007 with plotting to bomb European tourist resorts and overseas US military bases and is scheduled for trial in January 2009. (AP, Nov. 27, 28, Reuters, Nov. 27)

According to an AP report, Abdi refused earlier plea deals that would have required him to acknowledge ties with Al Qa’ida and testify against other suspects. Abucar and attorney David Smith said on Nov. 28 that the government had offered Abdi five years in prison minus the time he already served, plus a green card—lawful permanent residency in the US.

“He believed that the government didn’t have any strong case against him and he should not accept that kind of plea bargain,” Abucar said. “He wanted to be cleared of everything.” The government wanted Abdi to testify against Paul, said Abucar. Abdi refused to testify against a fellow Muslim but also said he didn’t know what the government was talking about, Abucar said. “He’s very religious,” Abucar said. “He said, ‘If I lie, God will punish me.'”

The plea agreement Abdi accepted this past July does not require him to cooperate with the government in other cases. Sherif said Abdi agreed to the plea to get on with his life and because he worried what a jury would decide given the country’s current mood. (AP, Nov. 28)

From Immigration News Briefs, Dec. 9

See our last posts on the immigration crackdown, specious terror cases and Somalis caught in the web.