Algerian sentenced to 37 years for Los Angeles airport bomb plot
An Algerian man was sentenced Wednesday to 37 years in prison for his failed attempt to detonate a bomb in Los Angeles international airport in December 1999, the Seattle Times reported.
Ahmed Ressam, the so-called millennium bomber, was arrested with bomb-making materials after crossing in a rental car into the US from Canada. The car was packed with explosives that he allegedly intended to use to attack the airport on the eve of the millennium, DPA reported.
"Because Mr. Ressam planned this act of violence and took steps to carry it out, many, including the federal government, believe that Mr. Ressam is a continuing threat and he should never see freedom again," US District Court Judge John Coughenour said in his sentencing order.
Ressam was was found guilty of nine counts in connection with the planned attack. In the trial it was revealed that he was part of a terrorist cell operating out of Canada and had trained at Islamic terrorist camps in Afhanistan in the late 1990s.
Wednesday's sentencing hearing was the third time Ressam came before Coughenour for sentencing. On the two other occassions Coughenour sentenced him to 22 years, but those sentences were overturned.
Ressam's case became complicated when he reneged on his promise to cooperate with prosecutors. Initially, he was willing to provide information about other terrorism suspects and give a first-hand account of the inner workings of al-Qaeda in exchange for a promise of a lighter sentence.
In November 2004 he stopped cooperating and recanted everything he had said. His lawyer said his decision was due to the stress of repeated interviews and solitary confinement. As a result the government was forced to drop charges against two defendants whose prosecutions depended on Ressam's testimony.
Coughenaur said in July 2005 that the information Ressam provided when he was cooperating almost certainly stopped other attacks and saved lives.
Ressam did not speak in court on Wednesday, the Seattle Times said. In a written statement submitted earlier he said he had agreed under duress to cooperate with the government.
"I have no power to stop this injustice but only exonerate myself from it," the statement read. "You can judge me as you wish, I will not object to any of your sentences."