US appeals court vacates 22-year sentence of 'millennium bomber' Ahmed Ressam as too lenient

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - A federal appeals court on Monday overturned a 22-year prison sentenced for convicted "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam, calling it unreasonably lenient.

In a 7-4 split decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favour of the government's appeal and sent the case back to a federal judge for resentencing.

Ressam was arrested in Washington state in 1999 on his way to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in what became known as the millennium terror plot. Authorities say they found more than 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of chemicals and other materials in his car that were capable of producing a massive bomb.

Investigators have said the Algerian national attended three training camps for Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan between March 1998 and February 1999.

He was convicted of nine criminal counts, but his case went through a complicated process with changes of venue and appeals from both sides. The trial was held in Los Angeles.

The 22-year sentence was twice imposed by a federal judge in Seattle, well short of the 65 years to life recommended by sentencing guidelines.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed that we have to go through another sentencing," said Tom Hillier, the federal public defender who argued the case before the appellate court in Seattle. "It's been a long haul for Ahmed. But when it comes to terrorism cases, there are some fairly strong opinions on what should be" the sentence.

He said the judge will have to impose a sentence longer than 22 years but the appellate court did not specify any specific length.

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