Algerian ‘millennium bomber’ sentence too lenient


The 22-year prison sentence given to the Algerian man who plotted to blow up Los Angeles International Airport a decade ago was too lenient, a US appeals court ruled, ordering a new judge to resentence him.

Ahmed Ressam, dubbed the “millennium bomber,” was caught at the US-Canada border in December 1999 with nitroglycerin in the trunk of a rented car. He told authorities he planned to blow up the Los Angeles airport on the eve of 2000.

Ressam later reached a deal with US federal prosecutors to give information about other terrorism suspects in return for a shorter sentence. But he angered prosecutors by refusing to cooperate further after early 2003.

An appeals court in California earlier this week agreed with the US Justice Department’s arguments that the 22-year sentence given to Ressam by a Seattle judge was too lenient. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he could get between 65 years to life in prison, the court said.

The judge in Seattle initially sentenced him to 22 years in prison, but the appeals court overturned that sentence and ordered the judge to resentence Ressam. The judge then sentenced him a second time to 22 years in prison.

The appeals court took the rare step of ordering that the case be assigned to a different judge. It said the judge in Washington State who imposed the initial sentence had failed to address the Justice Department’s arguments, instead going well below the range set out in sentencing guidelines.

Ressam left Algeria in 1992 for France and in 1994 sought asylum in Canada, which was denied. However he was not deported and in 1998 he attended an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. He returned to Canada the next year to plan the airport attack.

Ressam is serving his sentence at the “Supermax” federal prison in Florence, Colorado, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Pic: Flag of Algeria