Pakistani immigrant convicted of N.Y. subway plot

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Pakistani immigrant was convicted on Wednesday of plotting to blow up a New York City subway station in a case that shed light on police investigation tactics since the Sept 11 attacks.

Shahawar Matin Siraj, faces a maximum life sentence after a Brooklyn federal court jury convicted him of conspiring to place and detonate an explosive on the city's mass transit system.

Siraj, 23, was arrested on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention on charges he planned to attack a subway station in Herald Square, the dense Manhattan shopping district that includes Macy's flagship department store.

Siraj claimed he was entrapped by an over-zealous police informant twice his age, Egyptian Osama Eldawoody, 50, who met the Siraj in an Islamic bookstore while spying on mosques for the New York police.

Taped conversations between the two men were played by prosecutors during the trial plans were discussed to bomb the Herald Square subway station in midtown Manhattan.

Mr Eldawoody testified in 2003 and 2004 that he served as the 'eyes and ears' of the police and was paid more than US$100,000 to report about daily mosque activities, including prayers.

Prosecutors said Siraj had the will to carry out a plot supporting his extremist views. Their case was strengthened by the testimony of a co-conspirator who pleaded guilty in the case and an undercover police officer who said Siraj openly supported Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The jury also heard testimony by a Bangladeshi-born undercover police officer, who met Siraj while infiltrating a Muslim neighborhood as part of an investigation following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

During one conversation, Siraj "complimented" Osama bin Laden, the officer testified.

"He said he was a talented brother and a great planner and that he hoped bin Laden planned something big for America," said the officer, who testified under an alias because he is still involved in active investigations.

"The verdict is an important milestone in safeguarding New York against terrorist plotters whether home-grown or foreign," said New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.