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D.C. Cabbie Gets 15 Years For Terrorism

A Washington cab driver who admitted he attended terrorism training camps in Pakistan in 2002 was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison after he was portrayed as eager to serve a terrorist group even if it meant attacking the United States.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska said the sentence she imposed on Mahmud Faruq Brent Al Mutazzim "is on the low side" of sentences given to terrorism defendants across the country, but was the maximum available under the charge to which he pleaded guilty.

His lawyer, Hassen Ibn Abdellah, had asked Preska to sentence the Ohio-born Al Mutazzim to less than 15 years. The judge noted that without the limit, federal sentencing guidelines would actually call for Brent to receive a sentence of more than 30 years in prison.

Abdellah called him a hard working family man who might have been "naive, young, impressionable" when he went to the terror training camp.

He previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to help a terrorist organization, the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Al Mutazzim was arrested in August 2005 in a case that also ensnared Florida doctor Rafiq Abdus Sabir, Bronx musician Tarik Shah and Brooklyn bookstore owner Abdulrahman Farhane. Sabir was convicted of supporting a terrorist organization. Shah and Farhane pleaded guilty. Farhane was sentenced to 13 years in prison. The others are awaiting sentencing.

The judge called Al Mutazzim a graduate of a terrorist training camp, saying he went to Pakistan in 2002 to receive terrorist training from Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the United States designated a terrorist organization in December 2001.

His crime involved receiving the training and "then returning home to await his opportunity to put his training into action," Preska said.

Without men like Al Mutazzim, she added, a group such as Lashkar-e-Taiba would lack the ability to "put its murderous intent into action."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor Hou said that in a May 2005 meeting with Shah, who trained Al Mutazzim in martial arts, the taxi driver called his decision to receive terrorist training the best decision he had ever made.

"This is not a crime about thought," Hou said. "This defendant took action and he offered himself to a terrorist organization."