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Brooklyn Man Gets 15 Years for Aiding al-Qaida

(CN) - A Brooklyn, N.Y., man who provided money to al-Qaida and plotted an attack on the New York Stock Exchange was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison.

Wesam El-Hanafi and a co-conspirator, Sabirhan Hasanoff, were charged with providing $67,000 in cash, video cameras, computers, encryption technology and remote control cars that could be converted into bombs to an al-Qaida operative in Yemen.

The pair was arrested in the United Arab Emirates in April, 2010, and Hasanoff was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2012.

El-Hanafi pleaded guilty that same year to two counts of providing material support to a terrorist organization and conspiracy, and had faced up to 20 years in prison.

But U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood decided to give him a lesser sentence due to the deep vein thrombosis that has afflicted him during his years in incarceration. In fact, El-Hanafi is currently suing the U.S. for what he claims is failure to provide him with adequate medical care.

Despite that ongoing controversy, El-Hanafi tried to strike a conciliatory tone, describing himself as "moral and law-abiding" citizen prior to his getting involved "with this terrible ideology."

"I didn't just make the wrong choices, I made the worst choices," he told the court.

Prosecutors said El-Hanafi initially became radicalized in 2003, and then became seriously involved with al-Qaida beginning in 2007, when he made his initial contact with the terrorist group.

"After a period of providing financial support to these individuals, in February 2008, El-Hanafi traveled to Yemen to meet with two terrorist operatives who El-Hanafi understood were members of al Qaeda," prosecutors said. "While in Yemen, El-Hanafi swore an oath of allegiance, called bayat, to al Qaeda and delivered money and other items, including a laptop computer, to the terrorist operatives. El-Hanafi also taught the terrorist operatives in Yemen covert Internet communications techniques and supplied them with encryption tools that would facilitate communicating without detection."

The operative then ordered El-Hanafi and Hasanoff to begin surveillance of possible targets in the U.S., including the New York Stock Exchange. Prosecutors said they did so, and sent reports to terrorists based in Yemen.

In addition to his prison term, El-Hanafi, 39, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to 3 years of supervised release. El-Hanafi was also ordered to pay a $200 special assessment fee and forfeiture in the amount of $70,000.

Sarah Kunstler, who represented El-Hanafi, said she doesn't expect to file an appeal.

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