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New York airport bomb plotter handed life sentence

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Thursday sentenced an Islamist militant to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of participating in a plot to bomb New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Russel Defreitas, 67, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana, was found guilty in August by a federal jury of conspiring to blow up buildings, fuel tanks and pipelines at the airport in the New York City borough of Queens. He was sentenced by Brooklyn U.S. District Court Judge Dora Irizarry.

Defreitas, who had worked at the airport, provided knowledge of its facilities and layout, U.S. prosecutors said.

He was arrested in June 2007 along with three other men.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony and watched video clips of the airport filmed by Defreitas, and listened to audio recordings of the men made by a government informant.

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Officials have said the plot was nowhere near being operational when the men were arrested.

“Russell Defreitas plotted to commit a terrorist attack that he hoped would rival 9/11,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “Now, our courts have dispensed justice by handing out the life sentence that Defreitas richly deserves.”

The men sought to offer their plans to Jamaat Al Muslimeen, an Islamist extremist group in Trinidad and Tobago that was behind a 1990 coup attempt on the island, prosecutors said.

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Defense attorneys for the men portrayed them as all bluster and no substance, but prosecutors said they did more than just talk and “took concrete steps to make this plan a reality.”

Of the other three other men arrested in the plot, one was handed a life sentence in December, one has been too ill to stand trial and the third pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in January.

(Reporting by Basil Katz, editing by Michelle Nichols and Cynthia Osterman)

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