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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

10 Moslems Sentenced for Bomb Plot

NEW YORK -- Professing their innocence, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine followers were handed long prison terms for plotting to blow up the United Nations, FBI offices, tunnels and a bridge in a single day of terror.

Abdel-Rahman, a militant Moslem cleric who was the spiritual leader of the conspiracy, delivered an impassioned 90-minute speech in Arabic before being sentenced Wednesday to a mandatory life term.

"This case is nothing but an extension of the American war against Islam," he told U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey through an interpreter.

The judge disagreed.

"You were convicted of directing others to perform acts that would have brought about deaths -- tens if not thousands of deaths -- in a scale unseen in this country since the Civil War," he told the sheik.

Eight other defendants received prison terms of up to 57 years for planning what prosecutors called a "war of urban terrorism" aimed at altering U.S. policy in the Middle East. A ninth man got a life sentence for the 1990 murder of radical rabbi Meir Kahane in a Manhattan hotel.

The sentencing came nearly two years after the convictions of four men in the Feb. 26, 1993, World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people and injured more than 1,000. The terror conspirators were not directly charged in that bombing, but were accused of being part of the same "jihad organization" that carried it out.

The Moslems planned to bomb the United Nations, FBI headquarters in Manhattan, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels linking Manhattan and New Jersey and the George Washington Bridge. The explosions were intended to tell the United States to curb support for Egypt and Israel, and stop meddling in the Middle East.

One message the nation has received is that it is not immune to terrorism. Outside the courthouse Wednesday, a small army of city police officers wore bulletproof vests and carried semiautomatic weapons. Two dogs patrolled the courthouse with federal agents, and concrete barriers prevented vehicles from approaching the building. At times, 30 federal marshals were in the courtroom.

The defendants were convicted Oct. 1 of seditious conspiracy and other charges. Abdel-Rahman, 57, also was convicted of plotting to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which carried a mandatory life term.

During his speech, the sheik criticized the United States for backing the Mubarak government, which he accused of "spreading corruption, homosexuality, AIDS and encouraging birth control."

"I have not committed any crime. It is impossible for me to build a bomb or place it anywhere," said the gray-bearded sheik. "This is not the work of a man who preaches Islam."

Mukasey said the length of the sentences depended on each terrorist's involvement in the plot. Those who lied on the witness stand also received harsher sentences, he said.

The tough sentences were a repeat of the Trade Center trial, when all four defendants received 240-year prison terms.