August 26, 2005

U.S. appeals 22-yr sentence for ‘millennium bomber’

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Friday appealed
the 22-year prison term for "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam,
saying that the Algerian convicted of plotting to blow up Los
Angeles International Airport deserved a longer sentence
because he "plotted to kill hundreds of innocent Americans."

Ressam was sentenced last month by U.S. Western District
Judge John Coughenour for conspiracy to commit an international
terrorist act, explosives smuggling and other criminal counts.
Prosecutors had sought a 35-year term.

The 38-year-old Algerian was caught on the U.S.-Canada
border in December 1999 with nitroglycerin in the trunk of his
rented car, and he told authorities he planned to blow up the
Los Angeles airport on the eve of the new millennium.

"We believe his actions warrant a sentence above 22 years,
and that the district judge erred in imposing the sentence,"
U.S. Attorney John McKay said in a statement.

The appeal was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Ninth Circuit, which will set a date for a hearing and oral

Ressam had struck a deal with federal prosecutors to
provide information against other terror suspects in exchange
for a shorter sentence. But at his sentencing on July 27,
prosecutors asked for the longer term on the grounds that he
had failed to work with them and jeopardized cases they were
building against other terror suspects.

In a surprise move, Coughenour sentenced Ressam to 22
years, saying that he believed the sentence reflected "the
fairness and transparency of the U.S. justice system."

After his conviction in 2001, Ressam initially gave
testimony that was used in the briefing paper "Bin Laden
Determined to Strike in the U.S.," which was given to President
Bush on August 6, 2001, ahead of the September 11 attacks on
New York and Washington.

But prosecutors said Ressam's later refusal to cooperate
was "fatal" to other pending cases against terror suspects,
including efforts to extradite Rachid Boukhalfa, known as Abou
Doha, a radical Muslim imam being held in Britain.

U.S. prosecutors want to try Abou Doha for allegedly
masterminding the plot to blow up the Los Angeles airport.

Ressam, who will get credit for the more than five years he
already has spent in jail, is expected to be released from
prison in about 17 years.