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Man pleads guilty to conspiring to aid Taliban

James Ujaama
James Ujaama

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James Ujaama pleads guilty to conspiring to support the Taliban. KIRO's Essex Porter reports (April 15)
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SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) -- A Seattle man under investigation for ties to Islamic terrorists pleaded guilty Monday to charges of conspiring to support the Taliban, the former rulers of Afghanistan.

Under a plea agreement, James Ujaama pleaded guilty to providing support, including cash and computer technology, to the Taliban, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their pursuit of a radical Islamic cleric in London.

Ujaama is expected to testify against Abu Hamza al-Masri if and when he is formally charged, officials said Monday. Authorities have claimed al-Masri is an important terrorism recruiter, and officials believe he sent followers from London to Oregon to establish a terrorism training facility.

Although the conspiracy charge to which Ujaama pleaded guilty carries a penalty of up to 10 years, a statement issued by the Justice Department said the agreement calls for Ujaama to serve two years in prison -- including time served -- and three years of supervised release.

A sentencing date has not been set.

Ujaama appeared in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Other charges in his indictment from last summer were dropped. The Justice Department said Ujaama has already been cooperating with the government in its ongoing terrorism investigation.

"There will be ongoing both investigations and prosecutions relating to information provided by Mr. Ujaama," U.S. Attorney John McKay told reporters. That, he said, is "a win for the American people."

In the plea agreement, Ujaama agreed that in late 2000, he went to Afghanistan to help someone receive "jihad training." McKay termed this "significant cooperation on behalf of the Taliban."

In 2000 and in 2001, Ujaama agreed that he delivered money, computer software, and other items to Taliban officials in Afghanistan. He entered Afghanistan with the Taliban's help, the agreement states.

Asked whether the two-year sentence is too short for someone guilty of assisting a terrorist group, McKay said the plea puts enough restrictions on Ujaama both to ensure the safety of the public and let the government obtain the information Ujaama has.

"This case is not over," McKay said. "Mr. Ujaama now becomes a part of it in a different way."

Under the agreement, Ujaama is prohibited from associating or communicating with members of a terrorist organization, and will not be allowed to leave the United States for 10 years without U.S. government approval.

An attorney for James Ujaama, Peter Offenbecher, told CNN the plea deal involves the government dismissing all of the terrorism and gun charges that had been filed.

As to what information his client might have that would be helpful in ongoing investigations, Offenbecher said Ujaama "has agreed to tell the truth" and that "the plea agreement is not conditioned upon any investigation."

The attorney also said "it is not conditioned whether his truthful information helps or hurts the government."

McKay said the court documents list unnamed co-conspirators who the government will now pursue, with Ujaama's help.

CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena and Justice Producer Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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