NEW YORK (AP) — A 68-year-old Trinidadian imam who joined a failed plot to firebomb Kennedy Airport was properly convicted and sentenced to life in prison, a federal appeals court said Friday.
Kareem Ibrahim was convicted in 2011 of several conspiracy counts in the plot the government said was designed to kill thousands of people and cripple the American economy. Jurors had rejected his testimony that he only went along with the plot out of fear for his safety and hoped the plot would "just ... fizzle out."
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said he received a fair trial after his 2007 arrest. It rejected several arguments, including that his testimony was improperly limited, evidence was improperly admitted, there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction and his sentence was unreasonable.
The appeals court said the government provided ample evidence that Ibrahim knowingly and intentionally joined the conspiracy, which aimed to blow up fuel tanks and underground pipelines that run through a neighborhood near the airport.
At trial, the government said he joined the plot when a former shipping worker at the airport and a confidential FBI informant visited him at his home in Trinidad in May 2007 and revealed their plans. Taped conversations made by the informant were a prominent part of the government's case.
Prosecutors accused Ibrahim of offering religious instruction and operational support. During cross-examination at trial, Ibrahim admitted that he advised the plotters to talk to revolutionary leaders in Iran and to use operatives ready for suicide missions at the airport.
They also said Ibrahim promised to present the plan to contacts in Iran and gave the men practical advice on evading the attention of American authorities by communicating in code and limiting what they wrote down or put in emails. Ibrahim was arrested a month later and held for extradition.
Two others have been convicted of conspiracy charges and are serving life in prison. A fourth has pleaded guilty to providing material support and was sentenced to 15 years.
Ibrahim's lawyer, Michael Hueston, said he was considering an appeal.