NEW YORK (AP) — For the second time, an Albanian man living in New York was been sentenced to prison after admitting he tried to support terrorists in Pakistan.
Agron Hasbajrami, 31, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn to 16 years in prison under a plea deal that allows for his guilty plea to be vacated if a federal appeals court decides to suppress evidence from warrantless surveillance used in a National Security Agency's secret surveillance program.
Hasbajrami also admitted sending more than $1,000 in wire transfers to support terrorist activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, prosecutors said in a press release Thursday. They said he exchanged emails with someone in Pakistan who identified himself as a member of an insurgency group that murdered American soldiers.
In one email, Hasbajrami "stated that he wished to travel overseas, using jihadist rhetoric to describe his desire to die as a martyr," prosecutors say.
Hasbajrami was arrested in September 2011 at John F. Kennedy International Airport after buying a one-way airline ticket to travel to Turkey. He pleaded guilty in 2012 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to travel to Pakistan the previous year to join a radical jihadist insurgent group.
While in prison, he was notified by the federal government that some evidence against him had been gathered from the surveillance program. He withdrew his plea and asked a judge to have the evidence suppressed, arguing that it was collected without a warrant.
Federal Judge John Gleeson denied his request, and Hasbajrami pleaded guilty again in June on the condition that his plea would be vacated if the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the judge's decision.
"Mr. Hasbajrami will now have the opportunity to advance legal issues that are not only important to him, but to every American concerned about the erosion of our constitutional rights," his attorney, Steve Zissou, said Thursday and suggested that the appeal could go beyond the 2nd Circuit. "We look forward to having these issues decided by the Supreme Court."
But the prosecution defended the surveillance program.
"This case, like many others before it, has shown that the application of lawful surveillance can allow the United States government to detect and neutralize a terrorist in the United States," said Kelly Currie, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.