WACO, Texas (AP) — Naser Jason Abdo sat alone in court with his hands shackled and a white cloth secured over his mouth and neck. The soldier who went AWOL and plotted to kill other troops outside a Texas Army post remained defiant Friday as he was sentenced to life in prison, not asking for mercy and vowing to never end what he considers his holy war.
“I will continue until the day the dead are called to account for their deeds,” Abdo said in a low, gravelly voice through the cloth mask.
A federal judge sentenced Abdo, 22, to two life terms plus additional time. The federal prison system offers no chance of parole. He was convicted of planning what he claimed would have been a massive attack on a Texas restaurant filled with troops from Fort Hood.
In court, Abdo referred to Maj. Nidal Hasan — the Army psychiatrist soon to be tried in a deadly shooting rampage at that Army post — as “my brother.” He said he lived in Hasan’s shadow despite “efforts to outdo him.”
Abdo became a Muslim at age 17.
Outside court, prosecutor Mark Frazier said Abdo had come close to carrying out the attack. U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman compared the plot to recent mass shootings at a movie theatre near Denver and a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee.
“In the wake of the tragic events in Colorado and Wisconsin, this is yet another reminder that there are those among us who would use or plan to use violence to advance their twisted agenda,” Pitman said.
Arguing for a life sentence, Frazier had said Abdo still presented a threat. Abdo’s mouth was covered in court, Frazier said, because he had earlier spat his own blood at agents believing he was infected with HIV. That belief turned out to be wrong.
“He felt it was his duty to take lives, even after incarceration,” Frazier told the court.
Abdo was AWOL from Fort Campbell, Ky., when he was arrested with bomb-making materials last summer at a Fort Hood-area motel. A federal jury convicted him in May on six charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Abdo also was found guilty of attempted murder of U.S. officers or employees and four counts of possessing a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.
Representing himself, Abdo told the court how his effort to become a conscientious objector led him to Fort Hood.
He grew up in Garland, Texas, and enlisted in the military in 2009 thinking the service would not conflict with his religious beliefs. But as his unit neared deployment, the private first class applied for conscientious objector status, writing in a letter that accompanied his application that he wasn’t sure “whether going to war was the right thing to do Islamically.”
Abdo’s unit was deployed to Afghanistan without him. He said he would refuse to go even if it resulted in a military charge against him.
But his conscientious objector status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography in May 2011. Abdo told the court he felt the pornography accusation was made only because he had tried to leave the Army.
“I just can’t imagine a worse stigma being placed on a person,” he said of that charge.
A month later, after his efforts to reach out to the media had failed, Abdo said he decided he “was going to go on jihad.” Then, over the Fourth of July weekend, Abdo went AWOL.
In a police interview, Abdo said he wanted to carry out the attack because he didn’t “appreciate what (his) unit did in Afghanistan.” His plan, he told authorities, was to place a bomb in a busy restaurant filled with soldiers, wait outside and shoot anyone who survived — and become a martyr after police killed him.
According to testimony, Abdo told an investigator he didn’t plan an attack inside Fort Hood because he didn’t believe he would be able to get past security at the gates.
Abdo said Friday he would not ask U.S. District Judge Walter Smith for a lighter sentence. Most of the prison time he received was mandatory under the charges for which he was convicted.
“I do not ask the court to give me mercy, for Allah is the one that gives me mercy,” he said.
Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted in the Fort Hood shootings. His court-martial is slated for later this month.
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.
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