Thursday, April 30, 2009

Al Qaeda Sleeper Agent Pleads Guilty to Terror Charges

According to FoxNews, Ali al-Marri, a man held since 2001 as an alleged Al Qaeda sleeper agent, has pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism. The plea was entered in United States District Court in Peoria, Illinois. According to the report, Marri pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

Marri, a legal U.S. resident, was declared an "enemy combatant" in late 2001 and held without charges for more than five years at a Navy brig in South Carolina. The designation of "enemy combatant" was later dropped when a grand jury in Illinois indicted him. Marri will be sentenced in July.

The Washington Post had a story regarding Marri this morning in anticipation of his possible guilty plea.

Prosecutors and lawyers for Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri are engaged in negotiations that could produce a guilty plea by the suspected al-Qaeda associate in a federal courtroom as early as today, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The discussions have ebbed and flowed in recent weeks but the core arrangement would involve a plea by Marri to a single criminal conspiracy charge that would send him to prison for 15 years, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are not complete.

A plea along those lines would cut by half the prison time Marri is facing under statutory maximum sentences if he was convicted of conspiracy and providing support to al-Qaeda.

Among the most sensitive issues are conditions of Marri's confinement and whether he will win credit for the 5 1/2 years he has served in a South Carolina military brig. Complicating the talks are questions of whether Marri would be incarcerated in the United States or be moved to another country, perhaps his homeland of Qatar, requiring sensitive diplomatic intervention.

The case has been closely watched because Marri was the sole remaining "enemy combatant" held on American soil without criminal charges. U.S. marshals moved him to Peoria, Ill., last month after a grand jury there issued a bare-bones, two-count indictment against him.

In a speech in Germany yesterday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. cited Marri's case as an example of a break from practices of the Bush administration on national security, and an early signal that at least some of the 241 inmates held in a military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be sent to the United States to face trial in courts here. Holder is on an extended European tour this week, meeting with government officials across the continent to seek their help in relocating Guantanamo detainees.

Marri long has been a source of fascination for investigators. He entered the United States one day before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes on a visa he secured to attend graduate school. Military officials later filed a sworn statement allegedly linking Marri to hazardous chemicals and a plot to disrupt the financial system. None of those allegations appeared in the grand jury indictment in February, however, giving rise to questions about the strength of the government's case. . .

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