JFK Terror Plotters Lose Appeal of Life Sentences

     (CN) – Two Islamic militants were properly convicted of the 2007 plot to blow up John F. Kennedy Airport and half of Queens, N.Y., the 2nd Circuit ruled.
     Russell Defreitas, a former cargo handler at JFK, and Abdul Kadir, a trained engineer, are both serving life after a federal jury convicted them in July 2010 of conspiracy to carry out acts of terrorism at the sixth busiest airport in the nation.
     The men appealed their sentences as “substantially” and “procedurally” unreasonable, but a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit affirmed Friday.
     “The defendants were convicted of conspiring to explode pipelines and jet-fuel tanks at JFK Airport in order to kill countless Americans and other travelers, disrupt air travel, and harm the American economy,” Judge John Walker wrote for the Manhattan-based panel. “The gravity of the crimes for which they were convicted easily justifies the life sentences that were imposed.”
     Co-conspirator Kareem Ibrahim, of Trinidad, was also sentenced to life in prison for his role in the plot. A fourth man, Abdul Nur, who pleaded guilty before trial, was sentenced to 15 years.
     Militant groups in Iran and Venezuela had trained the four men in explosives and gave them advice on financing the attack. The co-conspirators also sought help from prominent international terrorist groups and leaders including Abu Bakr, leader of the Trinidadian militant group Jamaat Al Muslimeen, and al-Qaida leader Adnan El Shukrijumah, as well as the Iranian revolutionary leadership.
     Defreitas was convicted of conspiracy to attack a public transportation system, conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosive, conspiracy to attack aircraft and aircraft materials, conspiracy to destroy international airport facilities, and conspiracy to attack a mass transportation facility. Kadir and Ibrahim were convicted on similar charges.
     Much of Defreitas and Kadir’s appeal centered on the court’s decision to allow an anonymous jury whose impartiality the terrorists challenged.
     But the court found these arguments had no merit.
     “Before the trial, the government moved to empanel an anonymous jury on three grounds: (1) the seriousness and violent nature of the crimes charged; (2) the intensity of the international media coverage of the trial; and (3) threats to the judicial system itself, including alleged threats by Defreitas against his own attorney and potential trial witnesses,” Walker wrote.
     The court also took extra steps to ensure the impartiality of the jury, according to the ruling.
     “The district court also carefully employed mechanisms designed to ensure a fair jury, including an extensive juror questionnaire, a hearing to permit the government and the defendants to strike jurors for cause, two weeks of additional questioning, and a full opportunity to exercise peremptory challenges,” Walker wrote. “We see no basis to fault the district court’s empanelment of an anonymous jury in this case … the District Court reasonably concluded that the jurors would be fearful if their identities were revealed to these defendants.”
     Defreitas and Kadir are from Guyana in South America.

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