- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

BOSTON (AP) Richard C. Reid, the al Qaeda follower who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner with explosives hidden in his shoes, was sentenced to life in prison yesterday by a judge who told him: "We are not afraid. … We are Americans. We have been through the fire before."
Reid, a 29-year-old British citizen, cried, "You will be judged by Allah," before he was dragged from the courtroom in handcuffs.
Reid, who also was fined $2 million by U.S. District Judge William Young, is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. There is no parole in the federal prison system.
None of the eight federal charges against Reid carried the death penalty. He received the maximum life sentence after declaring himself a soldier of war and denouncing U.S. foreign policy toward Islamic countries.
"Your government has sponsored the torture of Muslims in Iraq and Turkey and Jordan and Syria with their money and weapons," said Reid, who converted to Islam eight years ago.
Judge Young would have none of it. "You are not an enemy combatant you are a terrorist," he said. "You are not a soldier in any war you are a terrorist. To call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. You are a terrorist, and we do not negotiate with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice."
Judge Young then pointed to the American flag behind him and said: "You see that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is long forgotten."
Reid had faced 60 years to life for trying to blow up an American Airlines flight bound from Paris to Miami three months after the September 11 attacks. Prosecutors said Reid had enough plastic explosives in his shoes to blow a hole in the fuselage and kill all 197 persons aboard.
Passengers and crew members overpowered Reid, using seat belts and their own belts to strap him to his seat. Two doctors aboard the flight injected him with sedatives, and the jet was diverted to Boston.
Federal prosecutor Gerard Leone Jr. told the judge that in Reid's mind "the religion of Islam justifies the killing of innocent civilians. In his mind, the horrific and homicidal attacks of September 11 were but a missed opportunity."
As Reid sought to justify his actions, several crew members who had been on the flight looked stunned, glancing at each other in the courtroom and shaking their heads. One woman wept.
In Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft praised the sentence and said the passengers and crew were heroes who averted a disaster.
"The sentence imposed on Richard Reid says to the world that terrorists cannot escape American justice," Mr. Ashcroft said. "We will hunt them down, stop them and we will put them away."
When Reid pleaded guilty in October, he said he was a member of al Qaeda, pledged his support to Osama bin Laden and declared himself an enemy of the United States.
Prosecutors and the FBI said witnesses reported that Reid was present at al Qaeda training camps and that he had help making the bomb from an al Qaeda explosives specialist.
In arguing for a life sentence, prosecutors this month submitted a videotaped simulation of what Reid might have accomplished, showing a fiery explosion causing severe damage to a wide-body jet.
Reid tried furiously to light a match to his shoes, but he was unable to ignite the fuse. Authorities speculated that the shoes were moist from sweat.
One of the flight attendants, Carole Nelson, pleaded with the judge yesterday to impose a life sentence. "I believe that Richard Reid was on a mission of evil, a mission of destruction and a mission of murder," she said.
Federal authorities had been preparing for a high-security trial when Reid stunned prosecutors by pleading guilty in what he said was an effort to spare his family the pain and publicity of a trial. He pleaded guilty to eight charges, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

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