Appeals court upholds life sentence in terror case

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Associated Press

Posted on December 18, 2013 at 12:02 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An Iraqi man who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges wasn't entrapped into assisting in a plot to ship cash and weapons to al-Qaida in Iraq in 2010 and 2011 and the government did not take part in any misconduct, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the life sentence of 26-year-old Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to taking part in the plot, which was actually being run by a confidential informant for the FBI in Bowling Green.

"The government provided Hammadi with an opportunity to commit a crime, and he took it," Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote for the three-judge panel in the case.

Hammadi and 32-year-old Waad Ramadan Alwan pleaded guilty in 2011 and 2012 to working with a man they thought was an insurgent in the United States to ship thousands of dollars in cash, machine guns, rifles, grenades and shoulder-fired missiles to al-Qaida in Iraq from 2010 through 2011.

Prosecutors said the two were actually working with a confidential informant who recorded the pair's activities and no money or weapons ever left the United States.

The two were arrested in May 2011 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, after a federal sting operation.

Hammadi is in a maximum-security prison in Colorado. Alwan is being held at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.

Hammadi alleged that the federal government resorted to entrapment in pursuing the case against him and sought to enhance any possible prison sentence by including certain types of weapons in the scheme.

Moore, joined by judges Julia Smith Gibbons and Jeffrey S. Sutton, noted that Hammadi willingly took part in the plot.

"The government's conduct in this case is not irregular, and Hammadi offers no evidence that the government acted purposefully to trigger a twenty-five-year mandatory minimum (sentence)," Moore wrote.

Hammadi and Alwan admitted to working and planting explosives near Bayji, Iraq, where multiple U.S. units were working.

Prosecutors described Alwan as a seasoned terrorist in Iraq. They said he worked with the Mujahidin Shura Council, a violent group that claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, torture and deaths of two soldiers with the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division and the death of a third soldier from the same unit while they were patrolling about 60 miles south of Baghdad in June 2006.

Prosecutors linked Hammadi to Jaish al Mujahidin, also known as the Mujahidin Army, a group that claimed responsibility for shooting down American helicopters in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.

Alwan and Hammadi arrived in the United States in 2009. Both admitted to taking part in insurgent activities in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. Prosecutors said federal authorities became aware of Alwan when they found out he had been held in an Iraqi prison in June 2006 for insurgent activities.

It is unclear how or why Alwan was released from prison. Later, federal authorities found his fingerprint on an unexploded bomb in Iraq and launched an investigation.

Alwan recruited Hammadi into the plot in January 2011 and the pair spent five months working with the informant, prosecutors said.

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