BOSTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Convicted shoebomber Richard C. Reid, declaring his love for al Qaida, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for attempting to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight as part of a holy war between "Islam and disbelief."
The nearly two-hour sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Boston concluded with a dramatic exchange between Reid and the judge as the British national was dragged out in handcuffs.
An avowed follower of al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Reid admitted he tried to set off explosives in his footwear on American Airlines Flight 63 with 197 people on board over the Atlantic Ocean in December 2001.
"I admit my actions," Reid said in a packed courtroom, adding, however, "I make no apologies for my actions."
He blamed the United States for sponsoring the killing and torturing of "millions" of Muslims, saying it has "oppressed my religion."
In Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the life sentence tells "the world that terrorists cannot escape American justice."
Reid, 29, who converted to Islam while in prison in Britain, believed his act of terror was the only way to "prevent the destruction" of Islam, "the religion that saved him" from a life of crime and drug addiction in England, according to his lawyers.
Chief U.S. District Judge William G. Young, however, rejected Reid's contention he was a soldier, a warrior in a holy war to save his religion.
"I know warriors," Young told Reid. "You are no warrior. You are not an enemy combatant -- you are a terrorist. We do not negotiate with terrorists. We hunt them down, one by one, and bring them to justice."
After Reid's defense attorney tried to convince the judge to understand Reid's motivation and impose a lighter sentence, the judge wondered what sort of "unfathomable hate" led Reid to try to kill innocent people.
"It seems to me you hate our freedom, our freedom to come and go as we choose," the judge said.
"In our society, the very winds carry freedom from sea to sea," Young said. He added, "Americans will bear any burden, pay any price to preserve our freedom.
"See that flag Mr. Reid?" the judge asked, pointing to the American flag on the wall over his shoulder. "That flag still stands for freedom."
With that, the judge told U.S. marshals, "Custody officers, stand him down."
In the most dramatic moment of the hearing, Reid struggled as the marshals took hold of him.
"Your flag will come down, so will your country," the defiant Reid said, pointing at finger at the judge while being dragged out of the courtroom.
Young not only sentenced Reid to life on three counts, but also added a total of 80 more years on four other counts, 30 more on another, and fined him $2 million.
Young called the sentence "fair" and "righteous."
"We are not afraid of any of your co-conspirators," the judge said. "We are Americans. We have been through the fire before."
Reid was aboard a Paris to Miami flight on Dec. 22, 2001, when he tried several times to light fuses to explosives packed in his shoes.
Young said he was convinced that had Reid been successful, the explosion would have ruptured the airliner, possibly causing it to plunge 35,000 feet into the ocean, killing all aboard.
At the least, even if the plane had been able to continue to fly, the blast "could have sucked people" out, the judge said.
Quick action by several flight attendants and passengers, however, thwarted Reid, and he was sedated and held down until the diverted flight landed in Boston.
Reid's court-appointed attorney, Owen S. Walker, tried to get the judge to impose a sentence that some day in the future could have allowed Reid to gain his freedom when he was "no longer a danger." Reid was "looking into the abyss" of drugs and a life of crime and "Islam kept him from it," Walker said.
"There is no malice or hate in Mr. Reid's views," Walker said. "There is very much an absence of personal hate" in Reid.
The lawyer admitted, however, "Some might find that hard to swallow."
"I am one," the judge interjected, "considering what he did." He said Reid's conduct was an "expression of a wanton hate. He tried deliberately to kill people."
Before the sentencing, several of the flight attendants who fought to keep Reid from igniting his shoes gave victim impact statements. One said she believed Reid was "on a mission of evil."
Another, Christina Jones, said as she struggled with Reid he bit her on the hand, drawing blood.
"I realized I was in a fight for my life," she said. "The madman wounded me. We will not tolerate terrorism. Americans will stand up and fight."