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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Portland ‘Christmas Tree Bomber’ Sentenced

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - "Christmas tree bomber" Mohamed Mohamud was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in federal prison for a bomb plot involving an FBI sting.

His public defenders said they will appeal the sentence.

Mohamud was tried on terrorism charges in January for the plot, which was the result of a sting operation with undercover FBI agents posing as al Qaida recruiters.

His attorneys argued that the government entrapped Mohamud, but failed to persuade the jury, who found convicted him after several hours of deliberation. Prosecutors argued that Mohamud planned the time and place of the terror attack, and dialed a cell phone number he believed would detonate a bomb in a van in downtown Portland.

Mohamud was a student at Oregon State University in Corvallis when he met "Youssef" and "Hussain," FBI agents posing as terrorist recruiters.

It is not clear when the government began monitoring Mohamud, but trial evidence showed he wrote articles for "Inspire," al Qaida's English-language magazine, and had communicated with Samir Khan, the magazine's editor, as well as terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki.

Khan and al-Awlaki, both U.S. citizens, were killed by U.S. drones in Yemen.

To prove that Mohamud was entrapped by the government, his attorneys had to persuade the jury that he was not predisposed to commit the crime before meeting the undercover agents.

Before Mohamud, eight other people had raised entrapment defenses in FBI terror stings: all were convicted.

After an unsuccessful appeal, Mohamud's attorneys filed a memo this month asking U.S. District Judge Garr King for a 10-year sentence for their client.

Mohamud's attorneys said their client had cooperated with authorities after his arrest, that he had expressed remorse for his actions, and offered to work with the government to help steer other young people away from terrorism.

"The defense of entrapment does not posit that everything is the government's fault and that he is guiltless; on the contrary, [Mohamud] recognizes that the government had legitimate concerns regarding his writings and activities and that, ultimately, he is the one who committed the criminal acts," his public defenders wrote in the memo.

"Notwithstanding that, however, Mohamed has done everything in his power to demonstrate his remorse and renounce his prior words and deeds."

At sentencing today, Judge King's courtroom was packed with family members and others. Both of Mohamud's parents addressed the court, and Mohamud apologized for his actions, including a special apology to the Muslim community.

On the steps of the Mark Hatfield Courthouse, Mohamud's mother Mariam Barre expressed anger and disappointment toward the government and FBI.

"Our government should not take someone's son, isolate him for two years and put ideas in his mind," Barre said, adding that she was particularly upset when she found out that the undercover FBI agents had told her son to lie to his parents.

"I came here to have the dream every American person should have. We are Muslim, and our religion does not teach to kill innocent people. And the FBI should not teach young kids this is what you should do," Barre said.

Public defender Steven Wax told reporters "there is no question" that the defense will appeal the sentence.

Muhamud's attorney Steve Sady said his client offered his services to the government to help steer other young Muslims from radical, violent actions, but the government rejected the offer.

"This case started when a father called the government for help because he was concerned that his son was going overseas," public defender Lisa Hay said. "It's hard to imagine any family would feel comfortable calling the government today with that kind of fear."

Wax said that the trial brought to light "issues our nation needs to continue to address."

The question of young men being radicalized and going overseas "requires us as a society to consider the different ways in which we can respond," Wax said.

"The whole notion of the sting operation as it played out, I would hope will lead to some significant discussions by our policy makers," he continued. Some countries, including Mexico, prohibit such sting operations, claiming that government agents should not be allowed to participate in crimes for which their targets will be charged

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