Homegrown terrorists sent to prison

U.S. District Judge Bill Duffey on Monday said he hoped Atlanta's two homegrown terrorists would accept responsibility and express remorse for what they once plotted to do -- wage violent jihad.

But neither Ehsanul Islam Sadequee nor Syed Haris Ahmed made such concessions. Duffey sentenced the 23-year-old Sadequee to 17 years in prison, saying the Roswell man viewed truth, justice and the American way as his "anti-Christ."

Ahmed, a 25-year-old former Georgia Tech student, said he now believes terrorist acts are not the message of Islam, but Duffey wouldn't buy it. He sentenced Ahmed to 13 years in prison, saying he was "committed to conduct and values we abhor."

The prison terms were imposed in two separate sentencing hearings, with both Sadequee and Ahmed acting as their own attorneys. Both men were also sentenced to 30 years on probation, during which time they cannot have access to the Internet.

In June, Ahmed was convicted of a single count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorist groups here and overseas. In August, Sadequee was convicted of four terrorist-related counts, including providing support to a Pakistani-based terrorist organization.

The two slight, bearded men first met at the Al-Farooq Masjid on 14th Street near the Tech campus. In 2005, they took a bus to Canada and plotted with like-minded extremists, talking openly of attacking oil refineries, even disabling GPS satellites with lasers.

A month later, they drove to Washington and made amateurish videos of area landmarks. Ahmed later told agents the videos were uploaded on the Internet and sent to "the brothers" overseas.

In the summer of 2005, Ahmed traveled to Pakistan believing he would die a martyr fighting the Indian army in the mountains of Kashmir. But once there he chose not to join a terrorist training camp and returned home.

At sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney noted that in online chats with co-conspirators, Ahmed expressed regret about his change of heart.

The prosecutor also referred to the recent arrests of five American men in Pakistan, where authorities say they were trying to connect with militant groups. "The threat continues," McBurney said. "There are people in the United States who are still willing to take up arms against American soldiers and American interests."

Duffey told Ahmed, "While there was no attack in this case, it's because you were stopped. You are just one of many threats that face our country."

Ahmed said that since his arrest he has changed his ways. "Evil things cannot be stopped by evil," he told the judge. "They must be stopped with good." The killings of random people by terrorist attacks "are not helping Islam, it's not Islam."

He asked Duffey to convert to Islam, an invitation the judge refused. "I will not adopt your view of God and what it calls you to do," he said.

Duffey noted that Ahmed tried to belittle his actions by portraying himself as a naive, impressionable young man.

"But you're a smart, calculating ... and committed young man," Duffey said. "You're committed to conduct and values we abhor."

At his sentencing, Sadequee gave a lengthy statement in which he quoted passages, often in melodic chants, from the Quran in Arabic. Sadequee said his intent was to "bring the message of God and his greatness and his wisdom and his purpose."

"I submit to no one's authority but the authority of God," said Sadequee, who refused three requests from Duffey to stand when being sentenced. Sadequee also said passages from the Quran called for him to surrender to God's will, which he said included bloodshed and, if necessary, jihad.

If what he said made it worse for him in regards to his ultimate sentence, Sadequee told Duffey, "it doesn't matter to me."

Duffey sternly scolded Sadequee for his acts and his "distorted view of the world. ... If there is any contradiction to God's will, I would say you are it."

Sadequee's beliefs, the judge said, were "chillingly displayed" on videos the two men took of Washington-area landmarks. As they drove by the Pentagon, Sadequee videotaped the military complex and said reverently, "This is where our brothers attacked."

Those comments, Duffey told Sadequee, were "without any regard to those innocent fathers and mothers and children who were on the plane that crashed into that building."