New York: Bangladeshi Subway Bomber Sentenced to Life Plus 30 Years

John Bechtel
Washington
2021-04-22
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New York: Bangladeshi Subway Bomber Sentenced to Life Plus 30 Years Police officers patrol the passageway connecting New York’s Port Authority bus terminal and the Times Square subway station near the site where Akayed Ullah set off a pipe bomb the day before, Dec. 12, 2017.
AP

The Bangladeshi man who set off a bomb in New York’s most crowded subway station in December 2017 admitted what he did was wrong and apologized in a Manhattan federal courtroom on Thursday, before a judge sentenced him to life plus 30 years in prison on terror-related charges.

Akayed Ullah, 31, apologized after his attorney argued that a 35-year sentence was proper and would not be seen as lenient. Prosecutors, in presenting evidence, had argued that the Bengali immigrant became radicalized while living in New York City, through watching online propaganda videos disseminated by Islamic State (IS), the violent extremist group.

“What I did on Dec. 11, it was wrong,” Ullah told U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard J. Sullivan. “I do not condone violence.”

The court allowed phone access to Thursday’s sentencing hearing.

Ullah went on to issue apologies to David Wall and Veronica Chavez, who in victims’ impact statements said their lives had been changed forever, along with New York City, law enforcement and the country. No one was killed in the attack, but Ullah was among four people injured in the pipe-bomb blast.

“Finally, I apologize to my family whose lives have been ruined by my actions,” he told the court and his mother who attended the hearing with a companion.

In an April 1 sentencing memo, prosecutors wrote that Ullah became indoctrinated in Muslim extremist ideology by watching IS videos that glorified its leaders and called for violent attacks on Americans including stabbings, bombings and beheadings.

The Dec. 11, 2017, explosion in a passageway connecting the subway station at Times Square to New York’s Port Authority bus station, occurred less than two weeks after IS released a propaganda video, “Flames of War II.” In it, leaders called on supporters to carry out attacks in the United States.

“Ullah was, at that point, part of the bomb – ready to blow up himself and others for ISIS,” the prosecutors’ memo said, using another acronym for Islamic State.

After hearing from Ullah on Thursday, Judge Sullivan, who oversaw the trial that led to the Bangladeshi’s conviction on all six charges, ruled that the longer sentence was needed.

A jury on Nov. 6, 2018, found Ullah guilty of providing material support to a terrorist group; bombing a public place; using a weapon of mass destruction; destruction of property by means of fire or explosives; conducting and attempting to conduct a terrorist attack against a mass transportation system; and using a destructive device during and in furtherance of a crime of violence.

“A life sentence is appropriate,” Sullivan ruled.

The additional 30 years were added because the sixth charge carries a sentence that must run consecutively to the sentences on the other charges. Federal sentences do not allow for parole.

“I don’t see you as an evil man,” Sullivan told Ullah. “But this act was evil,” he said, calling the bombing a “truly barbaric and heinous crime.”

Sullivan called the bombing a decision calculated to kill as many people as possible in the name of IS.

Earlier, Sullivan noted that Ullah’s mother and other family members wrote letters on his behalf.

“[T]here are people who love you. They suffer with you,” Sullivan said.

“It has to be acknowledged that you didn’t extend the same feeling to others,” he said.

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Akayed Ullah [AP]

The hearing began with federal defender Amy Gallicchio telling the judge that the subway bombing did not define Ullah as a person. She pointed to his family’s letters – specifically one from his mother who said “her son has always been loving and doting.”

One day after the bombing, Ullah’s wife, Ferdous Jui, was questioned by police in Dhaka.

She said her husband, who had been living in Brooklyn, N.Y., since 2011, visited Bangladesh in early September 2017, months after she gave birth to their son.

He made the trip to arrange U.S. immigration papers for his family, officials said.

According to Bangladeshi police, Ferdous Jui told them that her husband may have been influenced by sermons and writings of radical Muslim preacher Jasim Uddin Rahmani. The preacher is the imprisoned leader of a banned Bangladeshi militant group, Ansar al-Islam, also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team.

Gallicchio said Ullah felt alone and isolated in New York, adding he was the target of hatred and Islamophobia.

“He lost his will to live,” she said, adding “he never communicated with ISIS.”

She said the minimum 35-year sentence was appropriate for the first-time offender.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski countered, saying the bombing was one of a few completed terrorist attacks in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.

“He harmed innocent New Yorkers who struggle with the effects to this day,” Donaleski said.

The prosecutor questioned Ullah’s remorse, noting that he proudly boasted about carrying out the attack in the name of IS.

The prosecution’s sentencing memo also showed that Ullah remained radicalized and issued threats following his arrest.

“You started this war, we will finish it. More is coming, you’ll see,” he told a corrections officer, according to the memo.

Ullah was injured when he detonated the pipe bomb strapped to his body.

“Shrapnel from Ullah’s bomb sliced into the leg of one commuter, two victims partly lost their hearing in the blast and countless others were traumatized by Ullah’s attack, which brought midtown Manhattan to a standstill, disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” prosecutors said in the memo.

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