West Boca doctor linked to al-Qaida gets 25 years in prison
(South Florida Sun-Sentinel) A defiant West Boca doctor convicted of conspiring to treat injured al-Qaida fighters was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison by a judge who said a sentence to deter others was needed because terrorists cannot carry out their deadly aims without help.
U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska noted Dr. Rafiq Sabir showed no remorse after his May conviction for conspiring to provide material support to terrorists by agreeing to treat injured al-Qaida members so they could return to Iraq to battle Americans.
The judge said there was “no reason to believe that this defendant has abandoned any criminal intentions.”
She said terrorism offenses were among the most serious crimes prosecuted and required stern punishments.
“If not for assistance to terrorists, then terrorist acts would not take place,” she said.
Just before the announcement of the sentence in a crowded New York City courtroom, Sabir insisted he was “completely innocent.”
He said a co-defendant, jazz musician and martial arts expert Tarik Shah, had duped him into taking an oath with an FBI agent who posed as an al-Qaida recruiter, never explaining that he was pledging loyalty to al-Qaida or its leader, Osama bin Laden.
“I’m an extremely gullible man,” Sabir said.
For about six months in late 2003 Sabir worked at Glades General Hospital in Belle Glade. Federal agents had begun tracking him in late 2002, monitoring his travel to Saudi Arabia, where he was employed at a military base hospital and documenting his phone conversations about joining al-Qaida.
Authorities raided his home, in a gated community west of Boca Raton, in May 2005 and arrested him after what a friend described as a weekend meant to be a memorable and festive family gathering.
He had planned to fly to the military base in Saudi Arabia, and his family was to have joined him in a month. But long before the trip was scheduled, the FBI began investigating Shah.
Sabir said Wednesday that he learned more about Shah at his trial than he had learned in the previous 20 years when they had become close friends.
He said he now realizes Shah tried to sell his services to al-Qaida.
“My intentions were entirely within the law,” he said. “I had no idea I was being asked to be an al-Qaida member.”
The judge said she concluded Sabir perjured himself when he testified during trial that he did not understand the accent of the FBI agent during the pledging ceremony and did not realize al-Qaida was said or that references to an Osama were about bin Laden.
Shah recently was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a deal with the government. A Brooklyn bookstore owner who pleaded guilty was sentenced to 13 years in prison. A Washington, D.C., cab driver pleaded guilty and agreed to serve 15 years in prison.
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