Two convicted over NY airport plot
A former member of Guyana's parliament and another man have been convicted of plotting to blow up jet fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, a plan that authorities said was meant to outdo the September 11 2001 attacks.
Russell Defreitas, a former JFK cargo handler, and Abdul Kadir, once a member of Guyana's parliament, were convicted of multiple conspiracy charges. Kadir was acquitted of one charge, surveillance of mass transportation, by the Brooklyn federal court jury.
Defreitas, a 66-year-old naturalised US citizen from Guyana, and Kadir, 58, were arrested in 2007 after an informant infiltrated the plot and recorded them discussing it.
Prosecutors alleged that Defreitas and Kadir wanted to kill thousands of people and cripple the American economy by using explosives to blow up the fuel tanks and the underground pipelines that run through an adjacent Queens neighbourhood. Authorities say the men sought the help of militant Muslims, including an al Qaida operative, in Guyana.
The defendants wanted to set off an explosion "so massive ... that it could be seen from far, far away," Assistant US Attorney Zainab Ahmad said in closing arguments. Their vision prompted them to code name the plot "The Shining Light", the prosecutor said.
The two men shut their eyes when the verdict was read and whispered quietly to their attorneys. During the trial, their lawyers described the two men as clueless trash-talkers who were led astray by the informant, a convicted drug dealer.
Kadir maintained his innocence. "Obviously, he's totally disappointed," said his lawyer, Kafahni Nkrumah.
"There's more than just the evidence Mr. Kadir was coming up against," Mr Nkrumah said. "There's the atmosphere of fear in the country ... of Muslims, Islam and fear of terrorists, especially in New York City."
Defreitas' lawyer Mildred Whalen said there wouldn't have been a case without the government's intervention. "I think it was clear these guys couldn't act on their own ... and didn't act on their own," she said. "We're deeply disappointed."
Both defendants plan to appeal. They are facing life in prison and will be sentenced on December 15.