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American who joined al-Qaida faces sentencing in New York

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The Daily Collegian

By TOM HAYS Associated Press May

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday decided to spare a terrorist known as Bashir the American a long prison term after he switched sides and became a prized U.S. government cooperator, sentencing him to time served, about eight years.

The admitted terrorist, Bryant Neal Vinas, grew up in obscurity on Long Island but became a militant Muslim convert, relocated to an outlaw region of Pakistan and schemed with senior al-Qaida members on how best to attack the Long Island Rail Road.

Vinas, called Bashir al-Ameriki, was sentenced in federal court in Brooklyn on charges he tried to kill American soldiers and provide support to al-Qaida before Pakistani authorities captured him in 2008 and turned him over to the United States.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, prosecutors wrote that once in custody, Vinas, 34, of Patchogue, eagerly became what "may have been the single most valuable cooperating witness" in efforts to identify members of al-Qaida, pinpoint their hideouts and disrupt their terror plots in the late 2000s when the nation was still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks.

Vinas will be released in 90 days. He'll be on probation for life.

Prosecutors haven't revealed details of classified FBI reports they gave to the judge to show the depth of cooperation known to have prompted security alerts on mass transit systems around New York City. But in court papers, they said Vinas "did 100 interviews, reviewed approximately 1,000 photographs and contributed to the opening and closing of more than 30 investigations."

Vinas also testified at the trial of one of three New York City men convicted in a foiled plot in 2009 to bomb the subways and gave statements against French and Belgian defendants accused of going to Pakistan to join al-Qaida.

The government didn't recommend a sentence, but the defense argued the cooperation came at great risk and should be rewarded with a term of time served.

Read more: http://www.collegian.psu.edu/news/national/article_7c6e226a-14af-51e7-8532-8d2a9c28b95e.html