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Judge sentences Chicago man to 10 years for jihad plot

(MCT) CHICAGO—A federal judge sentenced a Chicago man on Tuesday to nearly 10 years in prison for planning to wage jihad in Somalia for a terrorist group connected to al-Qaida, saying his willingness to die in a suicide mission was “disturbing to this court.”

Shaker Masri, 29, a native U.S. citizen of Syrian descent, pleaded guilty in July to attempting to provide material support to the Somali group al-Shabaab, which is designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said she took into account Masri’s younger age, mental health and stress from his mother’s recent sudden death in accepting the sentence worked out between prosecutors and his lawyers — 9 years and 10 months in prison — even though he faced up to 15 years under sentencing guidelines.

To ensure that Masri would remain under the careful watch of authorities long after his release from prison, the judge also ordered that he be placed under supervised release for 20 years, much longer than usual.

While on supervised release, Masri’s Internet usage will be limited and his computer and his financial records subject to search at any time, the judge said. She also ordered him to perform community service until he can find a job.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Hammerman said the lengthy supervised release was necessary.

“Mr. Masri presents a risk to the community...” the prosecutor said. “Mr. Masri was determined to join in some jihadist conflict... He wanted to die in a suicide operation.”

Masri was arrested in August 2010 as he prepared to leave the country and has been in custody ever since.

An FBI informant had befriended Masri and learned about his intent to join in terrorist activities, authorities said.

Hammerman told the judge how Masri had expressed beliefs that he would receive heavenly rewards for his actions. The prosecutor said no objection has been made to Masri’s “jihadist ideology.”

At that point, Masri raised his right hand and asked to speak. After conferring with his attorneys, though, Masri chose to remain silent.

Later, when he was formally given the opportunity to address the judge, he responded, “No, thank you.”

Masri appeared before the judge in an orange prison jumpsuit with his ankles shackled. His head was shaved and his beard meticulously kept.

Masri’s lead attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, had opposed the 20 years of supervised release, noting his client would be an old man by the time he was completel free of court restrictions.

“With all due respect, 50 years old is not old,” Johnson Coleman said. “You’ve still got a lot of time left.

But Joshua Dratel, another Masri attorney, pointed out that Masri would actually be closer to 60 by the time he was no longer on supervised released.

“Still not old,” the judge said.

Even with 20 years of supervised release, Durkin said the sentence was “a reasonable resolution under difficult circumstances.”

As part of his deal with prosecutors, Masri has waived his right to appeal his sentencing.


©2012 Chicago Tribune

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