Qatari Terrorist Sentenced to 100 Months in Prison

A 43-year-old Qatari national who pleaded guilty this year to being an al Qaeda sleeper agent, Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, was sentenced on Thursday to eight years, nearly half of the time the Justice Department had asked the court for him to serve in prison.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Al-Marri was sentenced to 100 months instead of 15 years by U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm, who took into account the six years Al-Marri spent in military custody. But the judge also echoed prosecutors' concerns about the threat Al-Marri still posed to national security, saying the chances of him associating once more with extremists is high.

Al-Marri pleaded guilty before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in May to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaeda. He had been held in a South Carolina naval base as an enemy combatant since June 2003 until his transfer to civilian custody in March under the new rules of the Obama administration in detaining terror suspects.

Before he was transferred from military custody, Al-Marri was charged on a two-count indictment: conspiring with others to provide material support to al-Qaeda and providing material support to al-Qaeda. The second count was dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

Arrested in 2001 for credit card fraud while a student at Bradley University in Illinois, the Bush administration had him later declared an enemy combatant, which is a legal term that allowed officials to detain him indefinitely in military custody but that the Obama administration has since dropped from its detention policies.

According to prosecutors, he had attended terrorist training camps in Pakistan between 1998 and 2001. In 2001, he was approached by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was then the external operations chief for al-Qaeda, about assisting the terror group in the United States. Al-Marri had agreed and was allowed into the United States via a student visa from Bradley University.

He tried to conceal his communication with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives, and researched online about toxicity levels and prices of cyanide compounds, including potassium cyanide.

Al-Marri's detention by the Bush administration had been challenged by human rights advocates, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit had said in a fractured July 2008 decision that the president had the authority to indefinitely detain him. That ruling was rendered moot by the U.S. Supreme Court in March, when it dismissed the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Al-Marri on the basis of a criminal indictment.

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