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American citizen to be sentenced for helping al Qaeda

From Lateef Mungin, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Syed Hashmi faces 15 years in prison
  • He pleaded guilty to trying to help terror group
  • He was arrested trying to board a plane to Pakistan

(CNN) -- An American citizen who pleaded guilty to trying to help al Qaeda is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.

Syed Hashmi, 30, is expected to appear in a federal courtroom in New York and faces a 15-year prison sentence. He was arrested in June 2006 at London's Heathrow Airport.

Federal prosecutors say Hashmi is the first American citizen to be extradited from the United Kingdom on terrorism charges. Hashmi is originally from Pakistan but grew up in New York.

He pleaded guilty in April to an offense of trying to transport military gear to al Qaeda.

His lawyers submitted dozens of letters from his family members, friends and from classmates and teachers at his college in Brooklyn.

Many of the letters portray Hashmi as a well-educated man who is capable of redemption and worthy of the judge's leniency.

According to a federal indictment issued in 2006, Hashmi, who was known to his associates as "Fahad," conspired to transport "military gear" to al Qaeda forces fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

He was arrested as he prepared to board a flight to Pakistan carrying a large amount of cash.

In court documents, prosecutors said they recommended a 15-year sentence for Hashmi because "he was directly assisting a senior al Qaeda commander and aiding al Qaeda's military forces who were attacking and killing U.S. and coalition soldiers in Afghanistan."