[QODLink]
Archive
Pakistani guilty of US rail bomb plot
A Pakistani immigrant has been convicted of plotting to blow up a New York City underground train station in a case that shed light on police investigation tactics since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Last Modified: 25 May 2006 01:09 GMT
Siraj planned to bomb the Herald Square station in Manhattan
A Pakistani immigrant has been convicted of plotting to blow up a New York City underground train station in a case that shed light on police investigation tactics since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Shahawar Matin Siraj, 23, faces a maximum life sentence after a Brooklyn federal court jury convicted him on Wednesday of conspiring to place and detonate an explosive on the city's mass transit system, among other charges.

Siraj and another man suspected in the plot, James Elshafay, were arrested in 2004 carrying crude diagrams of their target -- the underground station in Herald Square, a busy shopping district that includes Macy's department store.

Elshafay immediately agreed to co-operate with the government.

Mosque surveillance

The authorities say Siraj had no affiliation with known terrorist organisations. Instead, he caught the attention of an informant, Osama Eldawoody, and an undercover police officer with his anti-American rants at an Islamic bookstore where he worked.

Eldawoody, a naturalised US citizen from Egypt, and the Bangladesh-born undercover officer both testified for the government.

The informant had been assigned by the New York Police Department to identify and monitor extremists in the city's Muslim neighbourhoods following the September 11 attacks.

"That [rumours that US troops were sexually abusing Iraqi girls] was enough for me. I'm ready to do anything. I don't care about my life"

Shahawar Matin Siraj,
secretly caught on tape

Eldawoody testified in 2003 and 2004 that he was paid more than $100,000 to report about daily mosque activities, including prayers.

Siraj questioned new powers granted to police after they lobbied for increased surveillance of mosques they believed could harbour extremists.

The undercover officer, who testified using an alias, described being plucked straight out of the police academy in 2003 and given orders to become a "walking camera" among Muslims.

He said Siraj openly supported al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Inflamed by Abu Ghraib

Inside the bookstore, Eldawoody wore a wire and chatted with Siraj. When the topic turned to the war in Iraq, the defendant recounted rumours that US soldiers were sexually abusing Iraqi girls.

"That was enough for me," Siraj said in one of a series of secretly recorded conversations played for the jury. "I'm ready to do anything. I don't care about my life."

On tape, Siraj was heard musing about possibly destroying the Verrazano-Narrows and three other bridges serving Staten Island or killing Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft.

"I used to just listen to him (police informant Eldawoody), but I never said 'Yes, I was going to do it' or 'no' until the Abu Ghraib thing came up"

Siraj

Testifying in his own defence last week, Siraj said he never had a violent thought before he fell under the spell of the 50-year-old Eldawoody.

He said the older man became a mentor and instructed him that there was a fatwa (religious edict) permitting the killing of US soldiers and law enforcement agents.

Martin Stolar, Siraj's lawyer, argued that his client was "not the brightest bulb in the chandelier" and was easily led by Eldawoody.

Eldawoody had himself talked about "blowing up the buildings and blowing up the Wall Street places", the defendant said.

He admitted taking steps to attack the underground station, but only after the informant inflamed him by showing him photos of prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"I used to just listen to him, but I never said 'Yes, I was going to do it' or 'no' until the Abu Ghraib thing came up," Siraj said.

Ray Kelly, the New York police commissioner, welcomed the verdict as "an important milestone in safeguarding New York against terrorist plotters whether home-grown or foreign".

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.