NEW YORK, Jan. 17 -- A federal judge in Manhattan sentenced Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman to life in prison Wednesday for leading a cabal of Muslim terrorists who hoped to force changes in United States foreign policy through a series of horrific bombings and assassinations. U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey gave the blind Egyptian cleric the maximum for seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to murder, solicitation of murder, bombing conspiracy and solicitation to attack military targets. 'You're accused of a terrorist conspiracy -- the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of people on a scale that beggars the imagination,' Mukasey said before imposing the sentence. Abdel-Rahman, 57, was the last of 10 Islamic extremists sentenced for plans to blow up New York City landmarks and murder or kidnap political officials. The 10 were convicted of nearly all counts on Oct. 1 in Manhattan federal court. Prior to the sentencing, the sheik called his conviction part of 'a massive war against Islam.' 'In doing this, the U.S. is trying to kill me. God is great and he will be revengeful. My killing will be a martyrdom,' Abdel-Rahman told the judge. The second key defendant, El Sayyid Nosair, was also sentenced to life in prison for plans to kill Jewish leaders and political officials and for the 1990 assassination of radical Rabbi Meir Kahane. Nosair, 40, was previously acquitted in state court of killing Rabbi Meir Kahane as he spoke at a Manhattan hotel, but the jury convicted him on state weapons charges related to Kahane's death.
In the federal case, he was convicted of racketeering murder. The other defendants -- who obtained weapons and money, mixed bomb- making chemicals, and researched the destructiveness of their plan -- were sentenced to between 25 and 57 years in prison on Wednesday. Prosecutors charged the group with waging 'a war of urban terrorism' -- a 'jihad' or holy war that had its roots in Muslim fundamentalism. During the eight-month trial, the government claimed that Abdel- Rahman and his followers plotted to blow up the United Nations, the FBI building in New York, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge during a 'day of terror.' The defendants were also charged with planning to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and kill or abduct other public figures, including U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., and Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind. Prosecutors said the conspiracy also included the deadly 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and Kahane's slaying. Federal officials argued that the purpose of the terror campaign was to force the United States to change its policies in the Middle East and free the four men convicted of the car bomb blast at the World Trade Center, which killed six and injured 1,000. The other sentences handed down Wednesday were: --57 years for Egyptian immigrant Ibrahim El-Gabrowny, 45, who carried fake passports for Nosair and was convicted of resisting arrest; --35 years for martial arts instructor Clement Hampton-El, 57, who supplied detonators and other munitions to the gang; --30 years for livery cab driver Fares Khallafalla, 33, who was videotaped mixing the brew of explosives; --35 years for Sudanese immigrant Tarig Elhassan, 40, who conducted research to determine the maximum destructiveness of the bombs; --25 years for another Sudanese immigrant, Fadil Abdelgani, 33, who obtained fuel and performed other tasks for his cohorts; --30 years for his cousin, Amir Abdelgani, 35, who scoped out bomb sites in the Holland and Lincoln tunnels; --35 years for Mohammed Saleh, 39, the so-called 'money man,' who tried to fund the 'day of terror;' --and 35 years for Puerto Rican-born mechanic Victor Alvarez, 29, who supplied an Uzi machine gun to the gang and mixed the bomb-making chemicals. During the trial, prosecutors presented hundreds of hours of videotape and audiotape of the convicted terrorists, collected for them by an FBI informant, Emad Salem, who infiltrated Abdel-Rahman's group after the World Trade Center bombing. Other prosecution witnesses included the sheik's translator and law enforcement officials who found some of the defendants mixing a brew of bomb-making chemicals at a safe house in Queens. Defense lawyers claimed that Salem had entrapped their clients, who testified that they were training to aid Muslims in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Many of the men sentenced Wednesday morning and afternoon pleaded for leniency, telling Mukasey they had no idea there was a conspiracy afoot. 'Islam is not a religion of terror. It's a religion of peace and love,' Fadil Abdelgani said. But Mukasey, saying the men had plotted 'a monstrous crime,' refused to accept any excuses. He told Fadil Abdelgani, 'The issue here is not what a religion teaches but what it practices.' The man who allegedly masterminded the plot, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, pleaded guilty shortly after the trial began and cooperated with prosecutors, but did not testify at the trial.