By Jessica Dye

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal court judge on Friday sentenced a New York man to 27 years in prison for his attempts to join up with an al Qaeda-linked group and wage "violent jihad" against U.S. soldiers, federal prosecutors said.

U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson sentenced Betim Kaziu, 23, who was convicted by a jury following a trial in Brooklyn federal court last July. Prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence of life in prison.

Kaziu, an American citizen, had sought to link up with militants in retaliation for perceived abuses against the global Muslim community, prosecutors said.

He was arrested in August 2009 in Kosovo, where prosecutors said he was seeking to join up with al Shabbab, a militant Somali insurgent group linked to al Qaeda and designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.

He was indicted by federal prosecutors in September 2009 on charges including conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and attempts to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

During the trial, Kaziu's former co-conspirator and childhood friend, Sulejmah Hadzovic, took the stand to testify that Kaziu had persuaded him to travel to Cairo in early 2009, where they attempted to find weapons and contact foreign militant groups targeting the United States, including al Shabaab.

They planned to fight U.S. troops in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, according to the testimony.

The two watched militant training videos and communiques from top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Hadzovic said.

Prosecutors played clips from a bin Laden video found on Kaziu's computer and showed a profile picture or avatar from his MySpace page that pictured an Islamic holy warrior brandishing a sword.

Kaziu's lawyers argued that the threats amounted to nothing more than "foolish talk" by the then 21-year-old. The case is U.S. v. Kaziu, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 09-660.

(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Tim Gaynor)




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