[JURIST] Suspected al Qaeda sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri [JURIST news archive] was sentenced [judgment, PDF] Thursday to eight-and-a-half years in prison for conspiracy to help the terrorist organization, including researching potential targets within the US for chemical weapon attacks. The sentence was less than the 15 years [Chicago Tribune report] sought by federal prosecutors. In handing down the lesser sentence, District Judge Michael Mihm made reference to the conditions under which al-Marri was held [JURIST report] prior to his trial. Mihm also delivered a stern rebuke against interrogation methods used on al-Marri, including the use of threats [Peoria JournalStar report] that his family may be harmed. With credit for time already served as well as previous good-behavior, al-Marri may serve only five or six years of his sentence [Straits Times report].
In May, al-Marri pleaded guilty to the charges [JURIST report] against him as part of a plea arrangement. Al-Marri also agreed not to appeal his sentence, pursue a habeas petition, or oppose his deportation to Qatar or Saudi Arabia after serving his criminal sentence. Al-Marri had previously pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges, after the US Supreme Court granted the government's motion to dismiss [JURIST report] his appeal for habeas corpus relief. Al-Marri was arrested at his home in Peoria, Illinois by civilian authorities in 2001, and was indicted for other crimes. In 2003, then-President George W. Bush declared him an enemy combatant [CNN report] and ordered the attorney general to transfer custody of al-Marri to the defense secretary, claiming inherent authority to hold him indefinitely. Until March, al-Marri was detained on a US Navy brig in South Carolina.