An Albanian national and Brooklyn resident who pleaded guilty to aiding terrorists bent on attacking the United States has been sentenced to 16 years in prison, federal prosecutors said, but they added that the defendant will likely appeal the government's use of the most critical evidence against him.
Agron Hasbajrami, who had pleaded guilty in June to attempting and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson. After he serves that sentence, he will be deported.
"This case, like many others before it, has shown that the application of lawful surveillance can allow the United States government to detect and neutralize a terrorist in the United States," said acting U.S. Attorney Kellie Currie of the Eastern District of New York. "The sentence imposed today leaves no question as to the defendant's role in a very serious offense and helps ensure that he will no longer pose a threat to the United States and our allies."
Hasbajrami's attorneys could not be reached for comment.
His plea in June was the second one he has entered in connection with the charges. In 2013, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but later appealed and was allowed to withdraw his plea after finding out that the communications on which his prosecution was based were gathered through the National Security Agency's controversial bulk-data surveillance program, authorities said.
Under a new deal reached with prosecutors, Hasbajrami will be able to challenge in a higher court -- the Second Circuit Court of Appeals -- Gleeson's decision to reject Hasbajrami's attorneys' argument that the data collection was unlawful because it was conducted without a warrant.
Prosecutors said that Hasbajrami had bought a one-way plane ticket on Sept. 5, 2011, for travel to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan "for the purpose of joining a radical jihadist insurgent group," according to a news release issued by the U.S. attorney's office. "In addition, he sent over $1,000 in multiple wire transfers abroad to support terrorist activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan."
Hasbajrami's communications with an individual in Pakistan who prosecutors said "was a member of an armed group that had murdered American soldiers and kidnapped Westerners" were intercepted by the National Security Agency and agents were able to arrest him on Sept. 6, 2011, at Kennedy Airport as he tried to board a plane to Turkey with the intent, they said, of ending his journey in Pakistan.
"Hasbajrami is yet another individual in the U.S. who was inspired to commit acts of violence in the name of jihad," said FBI Assistant director in Charge Diego G. Rodriguez. "He used technology to propagate terrorist messages and create a plan to attack U.S. interests. . . . Through his guilty plea and today's sentence, once completed, he will no longer be able to remain in the U.S. while trying to harm us."
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said: "The sentence imposed today sends a clear message: Members of Manhattan-based Joint Terrorism Task Force will work tirelessly to uncover and stop any efforts to provide material support to organizations built to kill Americans."