NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Canadian who admitted plotting to bomb U.S. embassies in Singapore and the Philippines was sentenced to life in prison on Friday after telling the court he had been “brainwashed” by al Qaeda.
Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a Canadian citizen of Iraqi descent, was sentenced by a federal judge after pleading guilty in July 2002 for his role in the disrupted bomb plots on orders from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
He initially cooperated with U.S. authorities but the relationship soured and he grew to mistrust them during four years he was held in prison.
He was sentenced without a trial, based on his initial guilty plea and court documents on the secret case were only unsealed shortly before the sentencing.
“I do not believe in terrorism, violence and killing,” Jabarah, 25, told U.S District Judge Barbara Jones, saying he had been a “naive youth” who was indoctrinated by bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders.
“I was very unfortunately brainwashed,” he said. “I was very sadly deceived by them and they exploited and used me maliciously.”
The judge, noting that “actions speak louder than words,” said although Jabarah had denounced al Qaeda and terrorism, he was the moving force in the embassy plots.
“That was a decision that had to be made knowingly and willfully and cannot be mitigated” by arguing “you were duped into believing somehow killing innocent people could be right,” she said.
Jabarah admitted he swore loyalty in person to bin Laden in May 2001 and received instructions from accused September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to attack U.S. and Israeli embassies in the Philippines.
They later shifted the target to the U.S. embassy in Singapore and acquired surveillance videos and explosives.
Prosecutors said Jabarah was a liaison between al Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiah militant network in Southeast Asia, which has been blamed for attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians.
Wearing shoulder-length hair and a brown-knit skull cap, Jabarah had asked the judge to return him to his parents so he could take up studies in ophthalmology. He showed no emotion as he left the courtroom.
After the bomb plot was exposed by Singaporean authorities, Jabarah was arrested in Oman in early 2002 and deported to Canada. He was transferred to the United States and held in safe houses and then in a jail cell.
At first Jabarah cooperated with U.S. authorities, but prosecutors said he changed after a childhood friend was killed trying to attack American Marines in Kuwait.
They said Jabarah vowed revenge and planned to kill FBI agents and prosecutors assigned to his case, hiding steak knives and bomb making instructions. “If they release me ... then I will kill them until I am killed,” they quoted him as writing in a diary. He was moved to jail.
Defense lawyer Kenneth Paul said there was no plan to attack agents but Jabarah felt he had been abandoned in jail. Initially he did not have access to a lawyer, Paul said.
Born in Kuwait, Jabarah moved to Canada when he was 12 and was introduced to al Qaeda while visiting Kuwait as a teenager, government records show. After high school, he traveled to Afghanistan for militant training.
editing by Claudia Parsons and Chris Wilson