NEW YORK, (AP) – The admitted terrorist said he had been a naive adolescent brainwashed into plotting to blow up American embassies. He called himself a changed man, a would-be ophthalmologist who deserved a chance to pursue his goal.
But a federal judge in Manhattan sentenced Mohammed Mansour Jabarah to life in prison, saying she gave him credit for repudiating violence but couldn’t overlook what he had done.
“Actions speak louder than words,” U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones said as she imposed the sentence Friday.
She had listened to the Canadian citizen deliver a convoluted 20-minute speech blaming his past on evil men who exploited his youth and inexperience.
“I am not a ruthless, infamous and notorious terrorist,” said Jabarah, who was 19 when he was captured in Oman after the collapse of his bombing plot. “I do not believe in terrorism, violence and killing.”
Jabarah has been in U.S. custody since 2002, when Canada’s intelligence service turned him over to the FBI. He secretly pleaded guilty to terrorism charges as part of a short-lived plea bargain.
For a few months, he was a valuable resource in the hunt for al-Qaeda leaders. He gave investigators information about Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, described his personal meetings with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and detailed his interactions with several other high ranking al-Qaeda lieutenants.
He also described his own involvement in a terrorist plot. After graduating from high school in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he had lived since a move from Kuwait at age 12, Jabarah slipped into Afghanistan and trained at al-Qaeda camps in 2001. Prosecutors said he was preparing his first major operation — bomb attacks on American and Israeli embassies in Singapore and the Philippines — when the scheme was foiled by a round of arrests.
“This is far from a half-baked plot,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Rodgers said, noting that tons of explosives had been bought and a suicide bomber selected.
“Mr. Jabarah is the real deal,” Rodgers said.
After Oman’s intelligence service captured Jabarah, he was brought to Canada. He was interrogated and told he had two choices: Go to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, or switch sides and become an informant.
By July 2002, he had pleaded guilty in a closed court session and moved into a series of FBI safe houses in the United States, where he lived in relative comfort, with a stereo and his own kitchen.
His work as a snitch ended a few months later, when FBI agents searching his quarters discovered jihadist writings, a knife and rope hidden in his luggage, and instructions on how to make explosives. They also found a list bearing the initials of U.S. agents and prosecutors. Investigators believed it was a roster of people Jabarah intended to kill.