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Muslim convert sentenced to prison for aiding Taliban

Saturday, February 14, 2004

SEATTLE -- A Seattle-raised Muslim convert who aided the Taliban was sentenced to two years in prison Friday, getting a break for helping authorities with other investigations in the war on terrorism. James Ujaama, 38, pleaded guilty last year, admitting he delivered computer equipment and a recruit to Taliban officials in Afghanistan. With time already served behind bars, he could be free this summer. The American-born Ujaama was arrested in 2002 following an investigation into a Seattle mosque and was indicted on charges he conspired to set up a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore. Those charges were later dropped.

He instead pleaded guilty to the aiding-terrorism charges and was offered a two-year sentence in exchange for his cooperation in terrorism investigations.

Specifically, authorities were looking for information about London cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, a suspected terrorist. Ujaama befriended him in London in the 1990s and ran al-Masri's Web site, which advocated holy war against the United States. Ujaama also admitted that at al-Masri's bidding, he escorted a man to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

Al-Masri is wanted in Yemen for his alleged role in the 1998 kidnappings of 16 Western tourists, four of whom died in a shootout.

The judge said she was initially surprised by the light term called for in Ujaama's plea agreement. But she said she also had never seen a case where a defendant had agreed to provide such extensive cooperation.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Friday: "Our highest priority is to disrupt the networks of terror, and the information gained from individuals like Ujaama helps us protect innocent Americans from terrorist attacks."

Ujaama was born James Earnest Thompson in Denver. He converted to Islam in the early 1990s and became involved in the Dar-us-Salaam mosque in Seattle, whose members preached an extreme version of Islam.

He tried to travel to Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks but was unable to cross the border from Pakistan.


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