Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Men wearing hoods to hide their identity show off bombs hidden along an Iraqi roadside, praying they will kill U.S. troops, in videos shown Wednesday at the sentencing of the first war insurgent to be prosecuted in U.S. courts.

“Today, with God’s help, and if the Americans enter, we will hit them with timed mine by way of remote,” the defendant, Wesam al-Delaema says in one of about three dozen clips that prosecutors aired in federal court before he was to receive his sentence.

Assistant U.S. attorney Gregg Maisel said it’s impossible to know whether the bombs on al-Delaema’s video were detonated or killed any Americans.

Al-Delaema pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to murder Americans outside the United States and his agreement with prosecutors is that he will be sentenced to 25 years.

But it’s unclear how much time the Iraqi-born al-Delaema will serve because he’s a Dutch citizen and being returned to the Netherlands. A Dutch judge will decide how long he’ll be imprisoned.

Al-Delaema’s attorney, Robert Tucker, told U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman that his client only agreed to the plea deal because they are confident he’ll serve less than 25 years in the Netherlands. Tucker said the United States has the most punitive sentencing laws in the world.

“Europe does not sentence like that,” he said. “Everybody understood as clear as a bell, including the government, that this sentence is going to be changed.”

Al-Delaema, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and taking notes, listened through headphones to an Arabic translation of the court proceedings. At one point, he asked to have the court translator confirm that the government translations on the videotapes were correct. Friedman said he would allow it during the lunch break.

Law enforcement officials from Amsterdam were in the courtroom monitoring proceedings.

Al-Delaema was extradited from the Netherlands two years ago in an agreement that said he would be returned after sentencing and be tried in federal court _ not by a military commission, such as those set up for terror suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“I didn’t agree to that. The executive branch did,” Friedman said. He said he had an “institutional interest” in al-Delaema serving the sentence he imposed. “What’s the point of my imposing the sentence if it’s up to some other judge?”

But the judge said he was prepared to sign off on the deal.

Assistant U.S. attorney Gregg Maisel said in court that the United States will have no role in determining the actual sentence. But he said the U.S. court should hear a lengthy presentation of the evidence in the case, which can be translated into Dutch for the judge in the Netherlands to review.

The prosecutors aired clips from the cache of videos that Dutch authorities took from al-Delaema’s home when he was arrested. They included videos of insurgent attacks in Iraq and his travels around his hometown of Fallujah and the key to the case _ the night-vision video taken on October 30, 2003, showing al-Delaema and his fellow “Mujahideen from Fallujah” showing off the roadside bombs and talking about their goal of driving U.S. forces out of Iraq.

“With God’s help, we’ll wait for them here, off the speedway,” al-Delaema says on one, according to a translation from Arabic. “If they come we have a device that allows us to hit them, while they are unable to strike back. … And their deaths are in the hundreds.”

Al-Delaema also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in Washington’s Superior Court for a December 2007 attack on a corrections officer in the District of Columbia jail. Prosecutors said he kicked a prison guard to the point of unconsciousness, causing a subdural hemorrhage.

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