Convicted New York City subway bomb plotter Adis Medunjanin was sentenced to life in prison plus 95 years in Brooklyn federal court Friday after chanting Quranic verses and condemning social injustices and U.S. policies toward Muslims.
Medunjanin, 28, a college graduate who grew up in Queens, finished his remarks to U.S. District Judge John Gleeson by insisting that a jury this year wrongly convicted him of agreeing to join a 2009 plot to bomb the subways with two boyhood friends who testified against him, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay.
"I had nothing to do with any subway plot or bombing plot whatsoever," said Medunjanin, wearing a wrinkled black suit with no tie, a bushy black beard and a shoulder-length tangle of hair. ". . . I ask Allah to release me from prison, and all the Muslim, and I will appeal this decision."
Leading up to that denial, as his parents and sister watched grimly from the gallery, he sang verses in Arabic to Gleeson for nearly two minutes, followed by a biting commentary in English on the state of the world, drone attacks and abusive U.S. tactics toward war-on-terror prisoners.
"In what kind of world are we living? In a world full of hate and lies," he said. "The rich keep getting richer. The poor keep getting poorer. Oppression is on every corner . . . What is democracy? Everyone is saying it is . . . the best system humanity ever produced. But what kind of system endorses torture? Is this really the best system that humanity has ever produced?"
Medunjanin faced mandatory life imprisonment for attempted use of an explosive device in the bomb plot. But Gleeson said he had hoped to hear some expression of remorse, or some explanation of Medunjanin's journey from a Bosnian refugee to an American teenager to a jihadist, that would mitigate the sentence on eight other counts.
Gleeson said he remained puzzled by the transition, but Medunjanin seemed to be inviting him to be severe.
"It does seem that you've become more an object, more an exhibit of the path that you chose than the thinking, loving, feeling brother and son you used to be," the judge said.
In addition to the subway plot, Medunjanin was convicted of going to Afghanistan to join the Taliban, receiving al-Qaida training, and crashing his car in what prosecutors called an act of jihad when his arrest was imminent in 2010.