US sentences mentally ill Briton to 20 years

16th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

A mentally ill British man who set up a violent extremist training camp in the United States under orders from radical preacher Abu Hamza was sentenced to 20 years on two terror counts in New York on Friday.

Haroon Aswat, 41, cut a despondent figure in the US federal court, dressed in a faded navy prison shirt with his long dark hair plaited into braids over his scalp and down his back.

He has already spent 11 years in custody since his arrest -- meaning, due to time served and good behavior, he could qualify for early release in six years and can apply to serve the remainder of his sentence in Britain.

He pleaded guilty in March to one count of providing material support to Al-Qaeda and one count of conspiring to support the terror group, which carried out the 9/11 attacks on America.

In 2000, he spent six weeks on the West Coast in Seattle and Bly, Oregon at the behest of Abu Hamza, as part of a plot to set up a training camp for recruits wanting to fight in Afghanistan.

He then traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in mid-2001 in order to attend a training camp.

After the 9/11 attacks and the start of US military action in Afghanistan, he fled to South Africa, where he had family, and embarked on a life as an itinerant salesman of pirated CDs of Islamic chants and prayer, his defense lawyer told the court.

Aswat, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, was arrested in Zambia in 2005.

In 2008, he was admitted to Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric hospital in England, before being extradited to the United States last year.

Defense lawyer Peter Quijano told reporters he would now request his client's transfer to Britain, where Aswat's parents are based.

US District Judge Katherine Forrest said it was "of the greatest importance" that he receive specialist psychiatric care and added that she would support him serving the remainder of his sentence in Britain.

American government officials say that Aswat was included on a list of people associated with Al-Qaeda recovered from a safe house used by 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Pakistan.

Forrest also sentenced Abu Hamza to life behind bars in January for the deadly kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen and on a slew of terror charges, calling him "evil" and his crimes "barbaric."


© 2015 AFP

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