A prominent Muslim activist has been sentenced by a US court to the maximum 23 years in prison for illegal business dealings with Libya.
Abd al-Rahman al-Amudi, 52, pleaded guilty in July to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from high-ranking Libyan officials while serving as a go-between for them and Saudi dissidents. He was sentenced on Friday.
Al-Amudi, who admitted participating in a Libyan plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's crown prince, was not charged in connection with the alleged scheme. But prosecutors cited the plot as reason for him to receive the maximum sentence.
"This conduct is so base, so reprehensible that this defendant deserves every day of prison that this court will impose upon him," government attorney Steven Ward said.
Defence lawyer Stanley Cohen asked for leniency, and al-Amudi said he was sorry.
"Your honor, I regret my involvement in everything," al-Amudi said before US District Judge Claude Hilton imposed the sentence.
"Your honor, I regret
Abd al-Rahman al-Amudi,
Al-Amudi, of Falls Church, Virginia, was a naturalised US citizen from Eritrea who helped found the American Muslim Council and related American Muslim Foundation.
His position within the Muslim community garnered him an invitation to the White House during the Clinton administration.
He also participated in a group discussion with then-presidential candidate George Bush in 2000.
Al-Amudi pleaded guilty to violating sanctions against travel and trade with Libya, making false statements on his immigration application, and a tax violation. As part of a plea deal, he surrendered his US citizenship.
According to a 20-page "statement of facts" filed by prosecutors, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi wanted Saudi Crown Prince Abd Allah killed after a March 2003 Arab League summit during which the two called each other names.
Al-Qadhafi was mentioned in the
prosecutors' 'statement of facts'
Within two weeks, al-Amudi, who had in the past frequently travelled illegally to meet Libyan government officials, was summoned to a meeting in Tripoli and told al-Qadhafi wanted to punish Saudi leaders.
The unidentified Libyan officials wanted al-Amudi to introduce them to Saudi dissidents who could create "headaches" for the Saudi regime, authorities said.
Al-Amudi was not initially told the ultimate plan was to assassinate Abd Allah, learning of it only several months later from an unidentified "high-ranking Libyan Government official", the papers said.
Last year, a Libyan official paid al-Amudi $250,000. Court documents indicate al-Amudi used some of the cash for himself and transferred the rest to two others for personal use.
Al-Amudi received more cash from Libya and provided some to the Saudi dissidents. He was carrying $340,000 of that cash in England when it was seized by airport authorities there during a routine baggage search. Al-Amudi was questioned about the money, but not arrested.
He returned to Libya and was arrested on 28 September 2003, when he returned to the United States.
"[The sentence] shows that the system works"
US Attorney General
Bush administration officials sought to portray the prosecution as a victory in the "war against terrorism".
The sentence "shows that the system works: a terrorist facilitator has been sentenced to jail and we have reason to suspect that through his cooperation, we will obtain intelligence that will assist us in our ongoing efforts to advance these critical investigations", Attorney General John Ashcroft said.
Al-Amudi's lawyer said his client was a victim and walked into the assassination plot "unknowing and unwitting". Cohen said he expected the government to seek a sentence reduction next year because of al-Amudi's continuing cooperation with prosecutors.